This is something of an “on one hand, on the other hand” story. I’m going to start by heaping faint praise on Verizon, but I’ll end by scolding them. Are you surprised? Of course not.
We all get spam calls, scam calls, and robocalls. According to the US Federal Trade Commission Report on Robocalls CG Docket No. 17-59, nearly half of all calls made to cell phones in 2019 will be robocalls. Additionally, there are human-driven spam and scam calls that will add to that call volume.
Also: Scam alert: Identifying and blocking “Google” robocall spam
Last year, I decided to look into one of the more common spam calls I regularly got: The “your local Google representative” calls. I reached out to Google and was told that Google does not robocall. I subsequently wrote about a bunch of ways you can report calls you consider spam.
But what if you just plain don’t want your phone to ring? There are a bunch of third-party add-on apps that work by call forwarding all your calls to their service, and they then forward what they consider legitimate calls back to you. It’s a hack, and according to my former ZDNet buddy Zack Whittaker, who’s now writing for TechCrunch, they’re stealing your data and sending it on to marketing companies without your permission.
In other words, while they’re blocking some calls, many of these services are harvesting your data to sell so you get more calls. Lovely, right?
The carrier-based solution
There is, however, one solution worth considering. The call-blocking or call-filtering service offered by your phone’s carrier. I use Verizon, so in this article, I’m going to talk about Verizon’s service. If you use another carrier’s service, please report on your experiences in the comments section at the end of this article.
I’m willing to use a carrier-based service where I’m not willing to use a third-party service for one simple reason: my carrier knows everything, anyway. Since all my calls go through Verizon, either they’re going to protect my privacy, or they’re not. There’s nothing I can do about it. So I might as well avail myself of an additional service from them that can make my life easier.
Verizon offers a call filtering service. It’s a little difficult to find at the bottom of the My Verizon page, but it’s there. For convenience, here’s the link for you to follow without doing any digging.
Verizon offers two versions of their Call Filter service, a free option and one where you pay three bucks a month, or eight dollars for up to three lines. I signed up for the free service because it offended me to be asked to pay for an add-on service that should be provided for free.
After all, if Verizon has the technology to block spam calls, letting them go through is not only annoying to their customers but costly to every telecommunications partner in the call chain. Verizon is actively withholding a good public service merely for an extra three bucks a month. Seems heinous to me (yes, I said “heinous,” because it really does grind my grits).
In any case, I enabled the free service, which works relatively well.
To get the process started, you’ll need to download an app from the App Store. For iPhones, Verizon provides a download link.
For Android phones, Verizon claims the app is generally pre-installed. I went looking on the Google Play Store for a Verizon Call Filter app and did not find one. I recommend you check with Verizon directly. Given Zack’s warning about scammers, don’t just download an app that looks like it’ll do the job. Check specifically with Verizon support to get the right thing for your Android phone.
How well does it work?
At its best, a notification (you can silence it via a setting in the app) appears on my home screen letting me know that a call has been blocked.
I get relatively few of these, but anytime Verizon blocks a call I don’t need to take, I consider it a small win.
More often than not, though, I get calls that ring through, but are listed as “Potential Spam.” These I silence by pressing one of the volume control buttons on my phone, figuring that if it’s important the caller will leave a voicemail.
As the screenshot on the right shows, over the course of a particularly quiet five-day period, about a third of my calls were caught as potential spam, another third of the calls got through (and were spam), and I had two legitimate calls.
The results aren’t as good as I’d like. I’d prefer never to get a ring from Potential Spam calls. I’d also prefer Verizon blocked the other spam calls that it’s missing. I do wonder whether I’d get better results if I paid the three bucks a month, but darn it, you have to make a stand somewhere, and I can’t bring myself to reward Verizon with extra cash for doing something they should be doing anyway.
In any case, enabling free service seems to be a no brainer. It helps. It’s easy. It’s free. I recommend you do it today.
You can follow my day-to-day project updates on social media. Be sure to follow me on Twitter at @DavidGewirtz, on Facebook at Facebook.com/DavidGewirtz, on Instagram at Instagram.com/DavidGewirtz, and on YouTube at YouTube.com/DavidGewirtzTV.
The Five Pillars of (Azure) Cloud-based Application Security
This 1-hour webinar from GigaOm brings together experts in Azure cloud application migration and security, featuring GigaOm analyst Jon Collins and special guests from Fortinet, Director of Product Marketing for Public Cloud, Daniel Schrader, and Global Director of Public Cloud Architecture and Engineering, Aidan Walden.
These interesting times have accelerated the drive towards digital transformation, application rationalization, and migration to cloud-based architectures. Enterprise organizations are looking to increase efficiency, but without impacting performance or increasing risk, either from infrastructure resilience or end-user behaviors.
Success requires a combination of best practice and appropriate use of technology, depending on where the organization is on its cloud journey. Elements such as zero-trust access and security-driven networking need to be deployed in parallel with security-first operations, breach prevention and response.
If you are looking to migrate applications to the cloud and want to be sure your approach maximizes delivery whilst minimizing risk, this webinar is for you.
Data Management and Secure Data Storage for the Enterprise
This free 1-hour webinar from GigaOm Research brings together experts in data management and security, featuring GigaOm Analyst Enrico Signoretti and special guest from RackTop Systems, Jonathan Halstuch. The discussion will focus on data storage and how to protect data against cyberattacks.
Most of the recent news coverage and analysis of cyberattacks focus on hackers getting access and control of critical systems. Yet rarely is it mentioned that the most valuable asset for the organizations under attack is the data contained in these systems.
In this webinar, you will learn about the risks and costs of a poor data security management approach, and how to improve your data storage to prevent and mitigate the consequences of a compromised infrastructure.
CISO Podcast: Talking Anti-Phishing Solutions
Simon Gibson earlier this year published the report, “GigaOm Radar for Phishing Prevention and Detection,” which assessed more than a dozen security solutions focused on detecting and mitigating email-borne threats and vulnerabilities. As Gibson noted in his report, email remains a prime vector for attack, reflecting the strategic role it plays in corporate communications.
Earlier this week, Gibson’s report was a featured topic of discussions on David Spark’s popular CISO Security Vendor Relationship Podcast. In it, Spark interviewed a pair of chief information security officers—Mike Johnson, CISO for SalesForce, and James Dolph, CISO for Guidewire Software—to get their take on the role of anti-phishing solutions.
“I want to first give GigaOm some credit here for really pointing out the need to decide what to do with detections,” Johnson said when asked for his thoughts about selecting an anti-phishing tool. “I think a lot of companies charge into a solution for anti-phishing without thinking about what they are going to do when the thing triggers.”
As Johnson noted, the needs and vulnerabilities of a large organization aligned on Microsoft 365 are very different from those of a smaller outfit working with GSuite. A malicious Excel macro-laden file, for example, poses a credible threat to a Microsoft shop and therefore argues for a detonation solution to detect and neutralize malicious payloads before they can spread and morph. On the other hand, a smaller company is more exposed to business email compromise (BEC) attacks, since spending authority is often spread among many employees in these businesses.
Gibson’s radar report describes both in-line and out-of-band solutions, but Johnson said cloud-aligned infrastructures argue against traditional in-line schemes.
“If you put an in-line solution in front of [Microsoft] 365 or in front of GSuite, you are likely decreasing your reliability, because you’ve now introduced this single point of failure. Google and Microsoft have this massive amount of reliability that is built in,” Johnson said.
So how should IT decision makers go about selecting an anti-phishing solution? Dolph answered that question with a series of questions of his own:
“Does it nail the basics? Does it fit with the technologies we have in place? And then secondarily, is it reliable, is it tunable, is it manageable?” he asked. “Because it can add a lot overhead, especially if you have a small team if these tools are really disruptive to the email flow.”
Dolph concluded by noting that it’s important for solutions to provide insight that can help organizations target their protections, as well as support both training and awareness around threats. Finally, he urged organizations to consider how they can measure the effectiveness of solutions.
“I may look at other solutions in the future and how do I compare those solutions to the benchmark of what we have in place?”
Listen to the Podcast: CISO Podcast
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