Future iPhones could automatically detect nuisance callers using spoofed phone numbers

Posted:
in General Discussion edited October 11
Apple is seemingly attempting to combat the problem of phone scammers and other types of nuisance callers, by coming up with a method to detect if the inbound call is using a spoofed number and warning the recipient before they answer.




Nuisance calls are continuing to be a major problem for phone users around the world, with telemarketing spam, scams, and other types of "robocalls" bombarding people with calls and messages they do not want to see. While there are ways to block regularly-received nuisance calls, such as with block lists, the callers have ways to work around the restrictions.

One way is to spoof phone numbers, namely to make the call seem like it is coming from a different number. Spoofing allows calls to pass through blocking systems if the number is not on the list, as well as preventing the user from seeing the actual source of the call via caller ID before answering, something which can even make them more likely to answer if it's supposedly from a local area code, a trusted company, or a government agency.

Hiding the number behind another also reduces the possibility of a scammer from being reported to the authorities. It also means that irate callers cannot phone the scammer or telemarketer back to complain.

Published on Thursday by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Apple's patent application for "Detection of spoofed call information" proposes a system where an iPhone or other mobile device could perform checks on a call to ascertain if it is genuine, then either warn the user of the problematic call or prevent it from disturbing the phone user at all.

In some cases when a call is made, a session initiation protocol (SIP) invite is sent along between phone networks to the user's device. The SIP invite can contain a number of elements, with headers providing data meant to establish the call, such as speech codec information, network equipment identifiers, 3GPP VoLTE protocol information, server identifiers, and other elements.




While the spoofing caller can fill in some of the SIP invite fields, some are populated or overwritten by network servers as it travels. This automatically added or altered information constitutes a signature for that network, which could be used to compare with other existing call signatures to determine if the call itself is legitimate.

For example, the speech codec information could state the call is from a network's "internet multimedia subsystem" rather than VOIP, which would lean the device towards the call being legitimate due to VOIP being favored by nuisance callers. Identifiers could also be checked against a list of similar already-known identifiers, to confirm the call is passing through the correct phone networks and servers for the claimed origination point.

The system could also be used to determine if the spoofer is passing the call through a forwarding device, which is connected to a legitimate network and sends the SIP invite itself, potentially through a number from the user's address book. Using VIA headers, the device can check the number against the address book of the user, or a previously-established list, to verify the call is coming from the correct identified source.

In cases where the phone believes there to be too many discrepancies in the SIP invite, it can refer the "call record" to a database of other call records online. The database includes templates for different types of call initiation messages, which could be used to either confirm the call as legitimate or provide where it is really coming from.

Apple files numerous patent applications each week, and while the appearance of a granted patent or an application at the USPTO may be promising, there is no guarantee the concepts in the filing will become available in a future consumer product.

In this case, it is plausible for such a detection system to be enacted, but it would require cooperation between telecommunications firms to set up and operate. Apple does have influence over mobile networks due to the popularity of the iPhone, which could be used to implement the system in this way.

Apple is involved in an FCC "Robocall Strike Force," along with Google, AT&T, and 30 other companies, aiming to cut down on the number of nuisance calls made and received in the United States.

During Wednesday's launch of the Google Pixel 3, Google revealed the smartphone will include Call Screen, a screening feature that uses Google Assistant to answer and transcribe the caller's request and display the text to the user. The transcription is then provided to the user, who can answer, decline the call, or report the call as spam.

Apple is also currently in a legal battle with India's TRAI, where the regulator is threatening to ban iPhones from all of the country's networks if Apple does not enable its Do Not Disturb anti-spam app to be installed on iOS devices.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 26
    I sure hope this can be done in a future version of iOS and not future version of iPhone. This sounds like a task the Bionic chip was meant to do.
    60sguyols
  • Reply 2 of 26
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 19,440member
    razorpit said:
    I sure hope this can be done in a future version of iOS and not future version of iPhone. This sounds like a task the Bionic chip was meant to do.
    It can absolutely be done if they want to and no "bionic" chip needed. There's even a current system that if a potential scam call is detected asks the caller to state what they're calling about before passing the call on to the user. 
    maciekskontakt60sguydysamoria
  • Reply 3 of 26
    marvvmarvv Posts: 2unconfirmed, member
    Cool, my wifes Pixel has been doing this for a year or two now. Looking forward to this development!
    maciekskontaktgatorguy
  • Reply 4 of 26
      gatorguy said:
    It can absolutely be done if they want to and no "bionic" chip needed. There's even a current system that if a potential scam call is detected asks the caller to state what they're calling about before passing the call on to the user. 
    Well, if it's software, roll it out in beta now... at least flashing 'potential scam' on the screen on the phone with a 'screen' and a 'block/report' button to the carrier

    I can't believe all the 'you qualify for lower interest calls from 'my card issuer, VisaMaster Card Services' who then proceed to ask me for my credit card number, and then tell me that 'it's secure because they don't ask me for the CCV number'   (yeah, I answered  about 1 a day to ask them to stop)  I've been blocking all of them after the fact, and it's now down to about 3 a week vs 5 a day.  

    (Thank you, EquiFax)

    In a related note... I got a call from another user in my exchange (XXX-XXX-nnnn) who said I called them... I'm wondering if you start 'blocking' calls if the robocallers start using YOUR phone number (thinking it's dead/disconnected, and a good candidate for spoofed robocalling).  [If I were evil... I would].  Anyone else hearing that condition happening?


    60sguymicrobe
  • Reply 5 of 26
    It is just enough for telecommunication companies to check if line is registered to anyone and if it is open (in use currently by subscriber - this can be done and I had that as solution to someone spoofing my line for some activity years ago). Also Apple as first step could allow blocking not by number, but by all blocks of numbers settings. I also find blocking by schedule primitive - there is different schedule for business days and for weekend/holidays, but they do not seem to support it. On top of that why do I need to agree to any software to give access to my contacts? You are supposed to get access to my blocking list. It is none of anybody's business what my contacts are when we are talking about blocking (I might block even some of my contacts temporarily). This logic should be straightend out and we will be closer to solution.
    dysamoriamicrobe
  • Reply 6 of 26
    gatorguy said:
    razorpit said:
    I sure hope this can be done in a future version of iOS and not future version of iPhone. This sounds like a task the Bionic chip was meant to do.
    It can absolutely be done if they want to and no "bionic" chip needed. There's even a current system that if a potential scam call is detected asks the caller to state what they're calling about before passing the call on to the user. 
    On land line I use Digitone device (https://digitone.com/). So before any phone rings the check is performed against local blocking list and schedule (no it does not redirect to voicemail unlike iPhone). It even can keep caller hanging and drop the call with some delay. Aurtomated verification of a caller would be cool. It could even ask for punching some random number... twice... or three times... and state purpose/name. Automated call assistant would be great.
  • Reply 7 of 26
    And for the record random marketing calls I find absolutely obnoxious and I will never respond to any offer provided on phone. Find better way to reach me, because I will hang up treating the same callers as they treat me with obnoxious reaction. This is not proper way of building any type of service or relationship. And to add to that who told you you to ask for someone's name instead of introducing yourself first? Is this social standard now? Not in my times when we learned using phones properly.
  • Reply 8 of 26
    I enjoy the $10/year/phoneline service from Jolly Roger Telephone. Instead of just blocking the scammer calls, which does nothing to solve the problem of robocalls, it gets on the phone and plays the part of the victim, wasting the time of a real person with the person that eventually gets on the line.

    I ENJOY receiving telemarketing phone calls with this service that I’ve had for over a year now. Don’t get mad, make it a game.
  • Reply 9 of 26
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 3,271member
    For me, this shouldn't be complicated:
    If the number is not in my contact list, silence the ringer and send the call to voicemail.

    That would take care of the bulk of the problem:   Being interrupted by a spam call.

    I already do something similar with messages:  I silence those that are routine -- such as those from my credit card company telling me Apple charged me $0.99 for my iCloud storage.  I want to know that.   But I don't want to be interrupted by it.
    linkman
  • Reply 10 of 26
    jbdragonjbdragon Posts: 1,907member
    I'm using a App on my iPhone called Hiya. It will show me on the phone if it's a spoof number. Someone trying to do the whole local phone number trick, etc. Tell me what type of call it is. If has free support, but the paid service is not all that much.

    Once you have the app, you go into Apple's Settings then Phone, then to the Call Blocking & Identification, and for me turn on Hiya - Spam & Block and Hiya - Premium. Now I don't even waste my time answering that garbage. If it's someone really trying to contact you, they would leave a message. These Telemarketers and worse leave you a 3-4 second message of dead air. You know it wasn't anything you cared about.

    https://hiya.com/

    Use the FREE service part of it for a while and see if it works for your needs.
    edited October 11
  • Reply 11 of 26
    airnerdairnerd Posts: 593member
    This has gotten really bad lately. Over the last few months I will get a daily call from someone who has my same area code and first 3 digits, so I know it is a spam call so I just ignore it.  

    However, there are others that the iPhone should be able to pick up.  I have started to see a lot of fake "your apple account is compromised" calls and they are all from a 1-800 number that scrolls across the top instead of being in a fixed position.  I've seen others where the font is really small, so obviously being spoofed.  
  • Reply 12 of 26
    rob55rob55 Posts: 1,247member
      gatorguy said:

    In a related note... I got a call from another user in my exchange (XXX-XXX-nnnn) who said I called them... I'm wondering if you start 'blocking' calls if the robocallers start using YOUR phone number (thinking it's dead/disconnected, and a good candidate for spoofed robocalling).  [If I were evil... I would].  Anyone else hearing that condition happening?

    Well, I can't confirm that the caller called from my exchange, but I've definitely received a couple of calls from people asking why I called them. One of them actually left a profanity-laced voicemail. While this evidence is anecdotal at best, it would seem that what you described may be happening. 

    I've always operated on the assumption that if you answer these suspected scam/spam calls, your number gets flagged as being live, and then the frequency of said calls increases. It's one of the main reasons why I think the Pixel 3's Call Screen feature is the wrong approach. These robocalls should never be answered. I know there's a way to have a white list of known and trusted numbers, but it's kind of a workaround via the Do Not Disturb feature. Apple should simply implement a more direct white list method unless they've done so already, and I'm just not aware of it).
    GeorgeBMac
  • Reply 13 of 26
    rob55rob55 Posts: 1,247member
    airnerd said:
    This has gotten really bad lately. Over the last few months I will get a daily call from someone who has my same area code and first 3 digits, so I know it is a spam call so I just ignore it.  

    However, there are others that the iPhone should be able to pick up.  I have started to see a lot of fake "your apple account is compromised" calls and they are all from a 1-800 number that scrolls across the top instead of being in a fixed position.  I've seen others where the font is really small, so obviously being spoofed.  
    It has gotten pretty bad for me as well, so much so that I automatically enable the Do Not Disturb feature at 6:00 PM daily. My favorites are allowed through, as are repeat calls. Seems to work pretty well for me so far. 

    I know only one other person in my exchange, and that's my wife. Thus, I know that literally every other call I receive from the same exchange is a scam/spam call, and ignore them as a stand course of action. My approach is, if you're not in my contact list, you're getting ignored. If you really want to talk to me, leave a message, and I'll decide if i want to call you back.

    JFC_PAbaconstang
  • Reply 14 of 26
    linkmanlinkman Posts: 851member
    If the number is not in my contact list, silence the ringer and send the call to voicemail.
    I've been asking for that feature or something very similar to it for years. It should be very easy to implement. Or allow a different ringer for non-contacts than the default ringer for contacts. Manually setting the ringer/vibrate to something for 1000+ contacts is an ugly task. Set the non-contacts to a silent one/no vibrate and that nearly eliminates the problem.

    Now as to what to set my own number's notification to has my head spinning because some spammers spoof my number...
    GeorgeBMac
  • Reply 15 of 26
    boltsfan17boltsfan17 Posts: 2,052member
    This would be a nice feature to have. I'm getting sick of the IRS scammers calling my cell phone. 
  • Reply 16 of 26
    marvv said:
    Cool, my wifes Pixel has been doing this for a year or two now. Looking forward to this development!
    That's a bit different if you're talking about the default software. It just checks the call display against a database of businesses and known spammers. It doesn't do anything from what I can tell to detect if the call display information is falsified - that's what the Apple patent is all about.
    dysamoriajony0
  • Reply 17 of 26
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 19,440member
    mknelson said:
    marvv said:
    Cool, my wifes Pixel has been doing this for a year or two now. Looking forward to this development!
    That's a bit different if you're talking about the default software. It just checks the call display against a database of businesses and known spammers. It doesn't do anything from what I can tell to detect if the call display information is falsified - that's what the Apple patent is all about.
    Agreed it is different and you're correct about how it happens. If Apple chooses to utilize theirs, and it works as intended, then it's great move for Apple and a wonderful service to their users. But it's vaporware at this point. In the meantime Apple users depend on third parties for the feature, as did I until somewhat recently.
    https://slate.com/technology/2018/07/spam-calls-how-google-is-fighting-robocalls-on-android.html

    So on top of that Google is now adding another way to control possible spam calls:
    https://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2018/10/google-call-screening-targets-spam-calls-may-usher-in-bot-on-bot-armageddon/
    dysamoria
  • Reply 18 of 26
    robbyxrobbyx Posts: 372member
    I enjoy the $10/year/phoneline service from Jolly Roger Telephone. Instead of just blocking the scammer calls, which does nothing to solve the problem of robocalls, it gets on the phone and plays the part of the victim, wasting the time of a real person with the person that eventually gets on the line.

    I ENJOY receiving telemarketing phone calls with this service that I’ve had for over a year now. Don’t get mad, make it a game.
    This is genius!  Just checked out their website.  When I get spam/scam calls, I just cuss them out and call them the most horribly offensive things I can think of. I rarely get another call. 
  • Reply 19 of 26
    eightzeroeightzero Posts: 2,201member
    marvv said:
    Cool, my wifes Pixel has been doing this for a year or two now. Looking forward to this development!
    Well...that pixel might cease to do exactly this. Note the Apple patent filing.
  • Reply 20 of 26
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 19,440member
    eightzero said:
    marvv said:
    Cool, my wifes Pixel has been doing this for a year or two now. Looking forward to this development!
    Well...that pixel might cease to do exactly this. Note the Apple patent filing.
    This article is reporting a patent application, not a patent grant. There's a huge canyon between the two.
    https://patents.google.com/?q=phone+call+spoofing
    edited October 11 dysamoria
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