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NTC orders telcos to disable clickable links in text messages

By Camille Santiago Published Sep 13, 2022 9:59 am

The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) has ordered the big three telcos in the Philippines to block clickable links in person-to-person text messages amid the spread of spam text messages.

In a memorandum dated Sept. 12, the NTC has asked DITO Telecommunity Corporation, Smart Communications Inc., and Globe Telecom Inc. to disable any clickable URLs, Tiny URLs, Smart Links, and/or QR codes coming from malicious sites "based on existing database culled from government agencies such as 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 organization has also ordered the mobile network service providers to submit a written report of compliance on or before Sept. 16.

Meanwhile, in response to the increasing fraudulent messages, Smart has already made the move to block SIMs that send ‘smishing’ messages. The company also added that it has also blocked URLs linked to these illegal activities and that they are continuing to investigate the matter.

“Our recent investigation bared that these unscrupulous messages are being sent through individual SIMs,” said Angel Redoble, FVP and Chief Information Security Officer of PLDT and Smart. “These messages do not originate from aggregators or their customers. There is no evidence to suggest a breach in our systems that would have given perpetrators access to the mobile numbers and names of our subscribers. Upon scrutiny of these spam messages, we have observed that the format of the names mimics the naming conventions used in popular digital services.” 

Smart also said that their focus is "identifying the source of these scam messages" and continue undertaking "public awareness campaigns".

In a separate statement, Globe said that the mobile network has spent roughly P1.1 billion to boost its cybersecurity infrastructure, adding that the company blocked a total of 784 million scam and spam messages from January to July 2022 and 610 domains or URLs, deactivated 14,058 scam-linked SIMs, and blacklisted 8,973 others.

"We work closely with the National Telecommunications Commission and the National Privacy Commission in pursuit of our common goal to crack down on cybercriminals and protect data privacy. GCash also coordinated with law enforcement agencies such as the Philippine National Police–Anti-Cybercrime Group and the National Bureau of Investigation Cybercrime Division on reported scamming incidents, which have led to arrest and prosecution," said Anton Bonifacio, Globe Chief Information Security Officer.