The inherent deficiencies in today’s robocall blocking solutions

Robocalls are an enormous and growing problem the United States. If you haven’t had your life interrupted by a robocall you probably don’t have a connected phone.

The Federal Trade Commission receives over 500,000 complaints about robocalls every month — and the number is growing at a disturbing rate [see chart below from the Economist].

Legislation hasn’t proven to be a sufficient deterrent. Robocalls were made illegal in 1991 when Congress passed the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, however, Youmail estimated that there were about 3.4 billion robocalls in April 2018, a staggering 1,300 robocalls every second!

The robocaller landscape

There are roughly 2.4 billion legitimate phone numbers in the U.S. and Canada, or to think of it another way, there are 7.9 million legal phone numbers per each of the 300 North American area codes. A small fraction of those 2.4 billion phone numbers are in active use at any given time — somewhere between 300million and 600million numbers. This means that the vast majority of available numbers should never be making calls. Spammers are leveraging the enormous inventory of inactive phones to simulate the illusion that incoming calls are originating from your local neighborhood.

The methodology exploited by spammers is a daunting challenge for existing robocall solutions that are based on SPAMMINESS databases. Spoofing is easy to implement, and blocking those number, or developing and applying a simple rule is unworkable because the phone number inventory dramatically outstrips even the most ambitious blocking. Brute-force effort of playing whack-a-mole to determine if a number is legitimately in active service triggers real-time degradation of the SPAMINESS database, further compromising its effectiveness.

And North America is not the only geography compromised by robocalling. It’s a global phenomenon, which complicates the development of a worldwide solution. [See chart below provided by TrueCaller.]

RealNetworks has applied its machine learning and AI platform technologies to develop a novel approach to robocallers. The V-Captcha platform by RealNetworks applies a framework and model that is similar to the methods that web publishers employ to protect their web pages from brute force bot attacks.

V-Captcha is differentiated from contemporary robocall blocking apps because it actively engages robocallers by interacting with the agent or person making calls from unrecognized numbers, and it provides the tools for network operators or users to establish and modify the efficacy boundaries to block spoofed calls.

V-Captcha requires callers to demonstrate and prove their legitimacy through challenges using generic to highly specific questions that require a general to specific answer. Utilizing voice recognition, V-Captcha asks a specific question and only connects the call after receiving a correct spoken answer.

The V-Captcha process works as follows:

V-Captcha automatically enables legitimate numbers. For example, if a caller is listed in the phone book, an indication they are legitimate, the challenge is not presented and the call is connected. Similarly, utility numbers, such as hospitals, police, fire stations, and emergency management are white listed, ensuring that urgent calls are immediately connected.

V-Captcha includes flexible and adaptable features that enable a wide-range of personalization, such as:

• ON/OFF to enable or disable the service, including the ability to schedule call screening during specific periods of time, providing complete support for private use

• The ability to choose a challenge from several difficulty levels, or even create a personal custom challenge

• Select how many times a caller will be challenged before the call is dropped or sent to voicemail

• Option to send a caller to voicemail or drop the call

• Automatically add allowed callers or blocked callers

• SMS notifications or notifications when a caller fails a challenge question

Eliminate robocalls and create a quality experience. V-Captcha from RealNetworks is the only solution that can detect and definitively resolve telephone number spoofing on a global scale.

If you have questions or comments please provide feedback below or reach out to me on Twitter @maxpelle