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NTC orders telcos to block URLs in text spams

The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) on Monday ordered major telecommunications companies to deactivate clickable Uniform Resource Locators (URLs), links, and quick response (QR) codes in text messages amid the proliferation of text scams.

In a memorandum signed by NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba, mobile network service providers DITO Telecommunity, Globe Telecom, and Smart Communications were directed to block or deactivate domains or URLs, TinyURLs, Smart Links, and/or QR codes from malicious sites.

These sites should be based on the existing database obtained from government agencies like the NTC, National Privacy Commission, Department of Trade and Industry, law enforcement agencies, subscriber reports, and those generated from machine learning or artificial intelligence.

The telco companies were given until September 16 to submit their written compliance reports to Cordoba’s office.

In a chance interview with reporters, Special Advisor to the NTC Commissioner Edgardo Cabarios said that blocking links will reduce the chances of mobile subscribers getting scammed.

“If we block the links, then fewer people will be scammed,” Cabarios said, adding that “we at the NTC are focused on prevention.”

Roy Ibay, Smart Communications vice president and head of regulatory affairs, said that “to combat the proliferation of SMS scam, the NTC organized a meeting together with the telcos to collaborate and craft a memorandum aimed at deactivating links that lead to malicious sites.”

“Smart has been conducting such efforts in the past which has led to 342 million 'smishing' messages blocked from June to August alone,” he said.

Globe welcomed the NTC’s directive to block or deactivate URLs in text messages “as this will institutionalize the fight against spam and text fraud.”

The company said it has long been blocking spam and scam text messages, including those containing malicious URLs or links.

“This is part of our ongoing effort to filter out dangerous SMS to protect our customers. We will coordinate closely with the NTC to come up with new solutions to further protect customers against online fraud,” the Ayala-led telco said.

“We support the initiative of the NTC to protect the public from phishing, smishing, quishing, and other forms of illegal activities. We will comply with the NTC'S directive,” Adel Tamano, DITO Telecommunity chief administrative officer added. 

The NTC earlier directed telco companies to warn the public against the proliferation of personalized text scams or unsolicited text messages containing the names of intended recipients.

These firms were also tasked to accelerate the process of blocking SIM cards that are being used to perpetrate the fraudulent activities and further enhance the messaging reach of their respective public information campaigns regarding the “new variants” of the text scams. —KG/VBL, GMA News