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Globe begins blocking links in text messages

Ayala-led telecommunication company (telco) Globe Telecom Inc. on Friday said it has started temporarily blocking all text messages from prepaid and postpaid numbers that contain Uniform Resource Locators (URLs) or website links as part of its efforts to combat spam and scam text messages.

In a statement, Globe said starting this week, it began blocking the delivery of person-to-person text messages coming from all networks that contain clickable links.

"Before implementing this measure, what we were doing was blocking access to malicious links in text messages to help protect customers. This time around, we're blocking the actual message. If the SMS (short message service) has a link of any kind, we are not going to deliver it, period. This is necessary to protect our customers,” said Globe chief information security officer Anton Bonifacio.

Early this month, the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) ordered telcos to block URLs, links, and quick response codes on text messages amid the proliferation of spam text messages, some of which contain the recipient's full name. 

Globe said that SMS blocking will be enforced pending passage and implementation of the SIM Registration Bill, which was ratified by both houses of Congress on Wednesday, September 28, and is expected to be transmitted to the President for signature.

The telco said the measure is vital to strengthen the government’s capacity to apprehend cybercriminals and other abusers of digital technology. It will also empower telcos in protecting their systems and customers from fraudulent activity.

“We are taking this measure for the security of our 92 million customers at Globe and 66 million more using GCash as we note how the modus operandi of fraudsters are becoming even more sophisticated. We hope this will make a major dent on various spam and scam SMS rackets,” said Bonifacio.

“This major step reflects our commitment to the country’s economic recovery by ensuring that the accelerated digital adoption does not expose customers to worsening cyberthreats,” he added.

Globe said it has been working closely with lawmakers toward the crafting and passage of a rational SIM Registration law, providing inputs that aim to ensure the credibility of the system, including its call for an authentic and verifiable source document so telcos can cross-check the authenticity of a SIM holder’s identity, given the prevalence of fake IDs.

The telco is also seeking an amendment to a provision in the measure requiring telcos to store SIM registration data for 10 years from deactivation.

Instead, Globe said it is proposing that telcos be mandated to keep historical data on registered prepaid SIM owners, as they are known to frequently change phone numbers.

Globe said it has blocked 784 million scam and spam messages from January to the end of July this year, deactivated 14,058 scam-linked mobile numbers, and blacklisted 8,973 more within the same period.

It added that it has spent $20 million or about P1.1 billion in capital expenditures to date to step up its capabilities in detecting and blocking scam and spam messages of international and domestic sources, including app-to-person and person-to-person SMS. —KBK, GMA News