SMS Pumping, Attempted Coups, and Watching the Fraud Watchmen: Episode 7 of The Commsrisk Show

The use of bots to pump fraudulent SMS traffic has been a scalding hot topic since Elon Musk claimed SMS pumping was causing losses of USD60mn a year at Twitter and then followed up by turning off SMS as a second factor of authentication for non-paying users. We could feel the heat during the livestream of episode 7 of The Communications Risk Show thanks to all the questions and comments that poured in from the live audience; there were far too many to read them all during the program. Thankfully, special guest Tim Biddle (pictured top right) adroitly navigated us towards a better understanding of this topic, based on his visibility of large volumes of SMS traffic at his current employer, Sinch, as well as the experience he gained whilst previously employed by some of Britain’s leading telcos. Tim answered as many questions as he could, but it is obvious that we need him to return for a future episode so we can cover all the points raised by the live audience but which we did not have time to explore yesterday.

My co-presenter, Ed Finegold, and I had no problem warming up when discussing the other big topic for episode 7, which was the severe criticism of the US STIR/SHAKEN regime by senior telecoms lawyer Jonathan Marashlian. Nearly 2,000 years have passed since Roman poet Juvenal asked quis custodiet ipsos custodes?, which is often translated as who watches the watchmen?, a question that is still difficult to answer. Marashlian cast doubt over whether the big US telcos that dominate America’s Industry Traceback Group (ITG), the consortium that traces nuisance robocalls and hence informs the regulator about carriers that deserve to be sanctioned, would always treat smaller US carriers fairly. He openly stated the opinion that much of the bad traffic received by US consumers comes from the telcos that run the ITG. But even if Marashlian is right, there is no way to delegate responsibility for analyzing and identifying the sources of bad traffic without addressing awkward questions about who is competent to perform this task. Ed and I ruminated on the issues involved in wanting to have independent scrutiny to ensure consumer protection objectives do not feed into anti-competitive behaviors, whilst acknowledging the challenge of finding somebody who would know enough to determine where to draw the line.

Both debates are bound to roll on and on. You can contribute to the conversation during each Wednesday livestream by using the messaging window at And if you missed yesterday’s show then catch up by watching the recording below.

Eric Priezkalns
Eric Priezkalns
Eric is the Editor of Commsrisk. Look here for more about the history of Commsrisk and the role played by Eric.

Eric is also the Chief Executive of the Risk & Assurance Group (RAG), a global association of professionals working in risk management and business assurance for communications providers.

Previously Eric was Director of Risk Management for Qatar Telecom and he has worked with Cable & Wireless, T‑Mobile, Sky, Worldcom and other telcos. He was lead author of Revenue Assurance: Expert Opinions for Communications Providers, published by CRC Press. He is a qualified chartered accountant, with degrees in information systems, and in mathematics and philosophy.