Delivering Trust and Added Value to Consumers Part One: Supporting a Framework of Trust with RealNumber®
The STIR/SHAKEN framework, which goes into effect on June 30th, 2021, will undoubtedly provide a major shift in how we build trusted connections with our customers. For those who are not familiar, STIR/SHAKEN is a framework that was created to help combat illegal caller ID spoofing and prevent robocall companies from making unwanted and fraudulent calls.
At a high level, STIR, or Secure Telephone Identity Revisited, is a call-certifying protocol while SHAKEN, or Signature-based Handling of Asserted information using toKENs, is a mechanism that verifies that a caller's ID is appropriate to its originating phone number. The idea is to make it so that the identity associated with every call is authenticated when it originates, thus allowing individuals to rest assured that they can trust that the number shown when calling them is legitimate.
In our new blog series, Delivering Trust and Added Value to Consumers, we explore how the industry is working collaboratively to restore trust in telephony and ensure customer confidence in phone calls. Through conversations with industry experts, this collection of thought leadership essays tackles a wide range of topics from the federally mandated implementation of STIR/SHAKEN to nationwide Caller ID authentication and more.
To kick off the series, we spoke with Dave Stewart, SVP and Chief Business Development Officer at Somos. With the STIR/SHAKEN deadline fast approaching, service providers are under more pressure than ever to ensure that their current infrastructure can provide compliance for their customers. From overcoming the challenges associated with achieving the highest level of attestation – full or A-Level attestation – to protecting the reputation and brand equity of Toll-Free Numbers, Dave shares how authentication enablement solutions from Somos support a stronger framework of trust.
Somos: To start, can you provide some background/insight into the past and current state of trust within the telecom industry?
Dave: The building blocks for a framework of trust in communications were laid long before the pandemic hit, including the passing of the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence Act (TRACED) Act in December 2019. As one of the first recent federal laws designed to combat the proliferation of robocalls, the TRACED Act both mandated the implementation of the STIR/SHAKEN framework as well as significantly increased the civil penalties against entities making illegal robocalls.
Shortly following was an unforeseen global event that exponentially increased society’s reliance on our communication infrastructure – the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. And with the subsequent lockdown of many aspects of society, community and business came a significant increase in a business’ need to create new communication channels with their customers, as reporting in Twilio’s 2021 State of Customer Engagement Report demonstrates:
Given that business digital transformation is rapidly accelerating and businesses are leveraging their communications infrastructure to connect with their customers, now is the time to double down on developing a strong – and agile – strategy for rebuilding consumer trust.
Perhaps one of the most exciting innovations to emerge from the pandemic and the accelerated digital transformation is expanded opportunities to build trust via digital interactions, customer intelligence and data mining. As we increase the volume and availability of digital solutions, it is easier to gain a more holistic view of the customer. This includes developing new solutions, such as Somos’ RealNumber, and frameworks, such as STIR/SHAKEN, that can help promote call authentication and caller information validation.
Somos: Speaking of, how does RealNumber relate to STIR/SHAKEN and fit into the greater framework for trusted conversations?
Dave:RealNumber®, Somos’ proprietary authentication enablement solution, plays an important role in underscoring one of the chief goals of STIR/SHAKEN – to help restore trust and preserve confidence in communications. RealNumber accomplishes this objective by validating the Right to Use (RTU) of a business for their number by verifying the chain of ownership to the authoritative assignment by a Telephone Number Service Provider (TNSP) of a Toll-Free Number.
Somos has working relationships with the majority of telephone number providers in the ecosystem – over 450 authoritative TNSPs and Resp Orgs strong in fact – that uniquely positions our organization to capture the chain of ownership needed to inform an Originating Service Provider (OSP) of a customer’s right to use a specific Toll-Free Number. Similarly, RealNumber provides enterprises with a secured credential that an OSP can verify with Somos in order to receive an authoritative record of RTU.
Speaking of the verification process, one thing that Somos was certain to keep in mind when developing RealNumber was that phone numbers change ownership frequently – thus making it critical that the process be simple, systematic and streamlined. RealNumber accomplishes this through meticulously developed APIs that can perform the reverification process every 24-hours and provides real-time status updates via automated queries.
Somos: Can you give us some insight into how Somos approached developing RealNumber as a solution to prove RTU?
Dave: Straight out the gate, we wanted to draw on our mature numbering management and administration experience.
One illustrative example of our experience is the TSS Registry. For those not familiar, Somos has been verifying RTU for several years – well before STIR/SHAKEN was part of the authentication enablement conversation. In fact, to date, we have verified RTU for over 5.6M text enabled Toll-Free Numbers via the TSS Registry.
At a high-level, the authentication process for the TSS Registry leverages a three-pronged process: First, ensure that the number is voice-enabled (note: this is an FCC-mandated requirement); second, identify the Resp Org of Record; and last, via a Letter of Agency (LOA), verify that the requesting entity is the subscriber of that number.
With the TSS Registry process as a baseline, we started to next think about what a similar process for authentication enablement could look like. Some of the key objectives for the solution that we identified included :
Reduce friction and enable scalability by getting rid of arduous paperwork such as webforms and PDFs;
Avoid requiring Resp Org to unnecessarily centralize all their customer information; and
Provide the confidence for OSPs and Resp Orgs that customer data was current and up to date.
The end result includes a workflow process that keeps customer data explicitly where it belongs – with its provider – all while helping to ensure optimal security, reliability and trust. In practice, RealNumber operates by providing a digital authorization code that confirms right to use of a designated number. This code can then easily be shared with multiple certificate providers or OSPs, who can then verify it in real-time with RealNumber via an API.
Somos: Any final words of wisdom you wish to share as it relates to RealNumber’s value proposition for consumers, service providers, enterprises and more?
Dave: Security should not come at the cost of customer choice. We, as an ecosystem, need to enable and empower ALL customers to use new and emerging technologies in a manner that presents a minimal disruption to how they use their telephony assets today. Otherwise, stated?
Work with what we have,
Build better solutions and
Bring back trust to telephony.
Interested in learning more about Delivering Trust and Added Value to Consumers? If so, stay tuned for the next article in our series featuring a Q&A with Chris Wendt, Director, IP Comms & RTC Solutions at Comcast and Co-Chair, SIP Forum/ATIS IP-NNI Joint Task Force!
In the meantime, we encourage you to visit www.somos.com/realnumber today to see how RealNumber can be leveraged to help determine right to use.