Phone Number Intelligence Data: A Formidable Tool for Combating Cybercrime

The telecom industry is no stranger to cyberattacks. In fact, the diversity of services offered by telecom providers make them a particularly attractive target for cybercriminals. Not to mention that one successful breach can give bad actors access to personal data and financial information on millions of customers.

To address this growing threat, the telecom industry has adopted a number of security measures – one of the most critical being the strategic use of phone number intelligence data. Such data has become a vital part of safeguarding against threats via cell phones and other mobile devices and is a crucial element in today’s cybersecurity landscape.

Smartphone Vulnerabilities 

Few are more aware of the vast changes that have taken place in communications over the last 30 years than telecom providers. From the early days of big, brick-like cell phones to the sleek, highly intelligent and versatile smartphones of today, cell phones have gone from being strictly calling devices to indispensable tools connecting us anywhere in the world in seconds. But along with their amazing utility and expanding functions has come risk. 

Today’s smartphones - - and our associated phone numbers - have become much more than communication devices. They now serve as a unique identifier that companies ranging from banks to internet providers use for account authentication purposes. 

While this provides convenience for customers and vendors, it has opened a virtual Pandora’s box of cybersecurity threats - unwittingly creating an entry point for fraudsters to hatch numerous schemes.

A Common Cyber Crime Scenario 

Cybercriminals use a number of different approaches to exploit phone number data for nefarious purposes. In one scenario, they create online retail, financial, or a myriad of other account types using inactive phone numbers. If the registration process doesn’t check and confirm the validity of the phone number, cyber criminals can then automate the account creation using computer software. These fake accounts can be used afterwards for spam or other illegal activities.

4 Ways Phone Number Intelligence Data Can Prevent a Cyber Attack 

Real-time phone number intelligence data can play a pivotal role in fraud prevention by flagging suspicious activity through a variety of mechanisms:

1. Strengthening Account Verification

Financial institutions and all types of service providers, such as mobile/online services, OTT internet streaming services and social networks, can enhance their user verification screening through phone number data intelligence solutions. Used during new user account registration, phone number data intelligence can provide real-time validation of the applicant’s phone number for active or inactive status. If the number is inactive – a red flag for potentially suspicious activity - the service provider can prompt the applicant to double-check the phone number format or adapt the registration workflow by adding a CAPTCHA step for authentication.

This mitigates, and in some cases eliminates, the damage that can be caused by those attempting to create fake accounts using invalid numbers. Such phone number intelligence data can also be used to scrub existing user data regularly to identify phone numbers that might have become inactive after registration and prompt users to update their account to keep it secure.

2. Using Risk Scoring to Assess Suspicious Activity

Different data points give useful information about the risk associated with certain actions, for example a service sign-up attempt or a financial transaction. With quality phone number data intelligence, fraud prevention algorithms can attach a higher risk to inactive numbers or other factors, enabling the company to assess potential issues more carefully.

3. Alerting for Fraudulent Phone Number Porting 

The delivery of one-time passwords over SMS for account registration or two-factor authentication has become a common practice, and unfortunately, has created a new set of security vulnerabilities. A typical scenario happens when fraudsters exploit weak processes and port a phone number to receive the SMS or Text-To-Speech One-Time Passwords of the real owner and then they use this information to take over their online accounts.

Phone number intelligence data services can safeguard against this practice through mechanisms that determine if a phone number has been ported (transferred) from one service provider to another.

Banks and credit card companies have learned that recent porting activity is a significant indicator for potentially fraudulent transactions. With knowledge provided by phone number intelligence data, this signal can be evaluated in the overall risk assessment process.

Financial institutions aren’t the only ones that can benefit from this information. Any web or mobile service can enhance its account verification and two-factor authentication processes by flagging new user account requests and password recovery attempts as potentially fraudulent when a freshly ported phone number is involved.

4. Combating Robocalling 

Robocalling scams have become a big problem in the United States, with more and more unwanted calls being generated every year. U.S. consumers currently receive approximately 4 billion robocalls per month. Fraudulent robocalls accounted for 34% of all calls in 2020. This growing illegal activity has left many consumers afraid to answer their phone. 

According to a survey conducted by Consumer Reports in 2018, 70% of U.S. consumers say they won’t answer the phone if they don’t recognize the calling number. Robocallers are using a multitude of tactics, including Caller ID spoofing, to convince the recipient to pick up the phone.

With quality phone number data intelligence, telecom carriers can use advanced algorithms to determine whether any call has the potential to be fraudulent, and if so, label it as “scam possible” or “scam likely.” The subscribers receiving such a call can then decide to answer it or not. This service has been well-received by consumers since it helps to protect against scams that can result in information theft or even financial loss.  

Getting Ahead of Cybercriminals with Phone Number Intelligence Data 

Safeguarding against cybercrime is a complex process and a moving target as new fraud tactics continually arise. Adding phone number data intelligence solutions to your arsenal of cyber protection offers one of the most effective tools available today for telecom and other service providers. When choosing a solution, look for experience, leadership and quality. 

netnumber Global Data Services is the world-leading provider of phone number intelligence data and has been at the forefront of telecommunications for over two decades. We deliver market-leading real-time number data and routing solutions to Enterprises, Messaging and Communication Service providers. Our solutions power communication networks globally, strengthen security and combat fraud. 

To learn more about how our phone number intelligence services can help you build rock-solid cybersecurity, click here