Pulling the (phone) plug

Ireland is to become the first country in the world to block direct-dialled calls to entire countries. The decision, by Commission for Communication Regulation ComReg, is an attempt to stop an internet-based fraud that relies on modem-jacking. But, while the BBC report focuses on the need to counter the fraud, the blocking of entire nations’ phone systems to direct calls is not the only response available

The move has understandably received world-wide press attention – Canada, US, Australia, as well as in technology-focused media such as CNET News – but perhaps the most interesting report comes from The New Zealand Herald.

New Zealand Telecom has been aware of the same problem for 1

  • Fraggle

    I’m sure that the switchboards will be jammed with all the thousands of people trying to phone the Cook and Solomon Islands.

  • peteb

    Well, Fraggle, 13 countries will be blocked in total.. although the number of phone users affected is a valid point.

    But the point I was highlighting was the way that the statutory body charged with regulating the communications industry in Ireland has decided that the best way to deal with this problem is to block the service until the consumer proves they are making a valid call.

    In comparison New Zealand Telecoms keep the service open and deal with the problems that arise – by waiving the first problem bill (I’d guess after checking the numbers on it), giving advice to the customer on how to prevent the fraud and blocking the telephone numbers dialled.

    The question is – whose best interests do you think ComReg had in mind when they made this decision?

  • Roger W. Christ

    The “blocking entire nations phone systems” comment is hyperbole and completely inappropriate. Only direct dialled calling to these countries has been stopped. This implies that you can still call up the operator to get connected. Clearly the claims of censorship that seem to be running through this article are far-flung.

    I’m happy for NZ telecoms that they have enough spare cash around to subsidize the activities of fraudsters (the called country’s bill has to be paid by someone). If I were a shareholder or a taxpayer I’d much rather they spent the money on improving the service rather than wasting time chasing frausters around, wouldn’t you ?

  • Roger W. Christ

    I might add that giving preventative technical advice to people is usually pointless, particularly when dealing with non-technical users. I’ve worked in systems administration in the past, and no matter how many strongly worded emails you send to people saying “don’t double click attachments from people unless you’re sure what they are” they keep doing it anyway, they keep getting infected and they keep coming to you to get their machine cleaned up.

    No matter how many times Microsoft warn people to keep their PCs updated with the latest patches to prevent viruses from infecting their machines, people don’t do it, and worms come out every now and again that take advantage – not of some unknown bug in Windows – but of exploits which had fixes published many months before. Worse, whenever you get a server or other piece of infrastructure infected because some idiot double clicked an attachment, people phone you up complaining about the terrible service you’re providing, how they can’t get any work done, how it’s all your fault etc etc. The only way to stop this is to get autocratic and prevent people from doing patently stupid things.

    So it’s just not sufficient to say to people “here’s how to stop this from happening again”, it’ll just wash over their heads or (more typically) they’ll just chuck your instructions in the bin.

  • Fraggle

    peteb, has it occurred to you that the cook and solomon islands are slightly closer to NZ than ireland is. this would indicate that there would be more legitimate phone traffic with NZ than with ireland. a phone embargo would probably cause business chaos in NZ whereas only a handful of legitimate calls are probably made from ireland.