Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Robocalls as a D.O.S. Attack: Bombarded By Robocalls

In talks with co-workers I am learning that literally everyone I know gets 4 to 5 robocalls every day, often including weekends. These calls are all very much the same. An automated woman’s voice starts talking about credit cards or a fake IRS audit. The phone numbers that appear in caller ID are always fake, unusual area codes, with Canada area codes common. Frequently the phone number displayed is just like your phone number or just one digit off. Lately robocalls have even been going so far as to leave fake voice mail messages.

I assign robocall phone numbers to a contact called DO NOT ANSWER. I edited this contact so that it is added to a Blocked Caller list in my iPhone. But the robocallers keep using new numbers.

I understand that the FCC is doing what they can, within the laws, to reduce this problem. There are industry groups, composed of the largest tech firms, working on this issue too. Yet, when I researched the scope of the robocall issue, as a person trained in cybersecurity processes,  one thing stands clear. Mass robocalls are a Denial of Service or D.O.S type of attack.
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A Denial of Service Attack is generally accepted to be an attempt by some individual or group to shut down a web site by overloading that site with requests. In the case of Robocalls, the organizations doing this are directly impacting the productivity of millions of people. Think about it for just a moment. Millions of people getting 3 or more fake phone calls every day. These people are often at work when such calls arrive. Even if the fake call only distracts you for 2 minutes, three times a day, that’s a total of 6 minutes. Multiple that times one million or more people impacted.  That is 100,000 hours stolen from us as a society. Every day.

Just consider the load on the cell phone network. Most of us are on unlimited minute plans, but not everyone. But the cell phone network itself does not have unlimited capacity, and it costs money to process every single call.

If you are applying for work, you must take calls from phone numbers unfamiliar to you. All too often that callback from a recruiter we are expecting turns out to be just another robocall. Time lost when you could be revising a resume or searching job postings.

In these and other ways Robocalls are costing the U.S. economy possibly a billion dollars each day.

 This is big money that cannot be used for salaries, new equipment, or other productive uses. For all we know this assault is being orchestrated by a government or private entity with exactly that goal in mind. Even if it is not an orchestrated effort, the impact is still the same. Our nation is being publicly robbed, with so far very little we can do about it.

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