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27 Dec 2019  (892 Views) 
Infocomm Media Dev Agency (IMDA)

Urgent action needed to block spam calls and SMS
As technology takes centre stage in everyday work and play, personal data breaches have become more common.

Technology has become more sophisticated, and malicious malware, phishing and online scams continue to proliferate.

Even with the Personal Data Protection Act in place, Singapore continues to see cases of personal data breaches (Personal data of 2,400 Mindef, SAF staff may have been leaked, Dec 22; and Company fined $60,000 after school's database is hacked, Dec 7).

The personal data that is most commonly compromised consists of names, mobile numbers and e-mail addresses. Mobile numbers in particular have become an important form of identification as they are used for authentication by banks and other institutions.

There is an urgent need to protect mobile numbers from being circulated and used to send people spam SMS and unsolicited calls, especially for purposes such as betting and scams. While people can create spam filters and block junk e-mails, there is no easy way to block spam SMS and unsolicited calls.

Registering one's mobile number on the Do Not Call registry does not usually accomplish this, as those using the registry are generally registered businesses, and I imagine the illegal bookies and loan sharks sending people messages are not.

As the surge in cases of hacking and personal data breaches continues, punishing the firms involved with fines is not enough as that is not going to help the people who have already had their data compromised and whose names and mobile numbers are being traded online.

There needs to be collective action by government agencies and telcos to put in place an avenue through which mobile users can instantly block spam callers and senders of spam SMS, in a transparent matter which allows users to track these actions.

While educating the public is important to prevent scams, it is even more critical to arrest the proliferation of such scams at their root.

Matthew Quah Chin Kau (Dr)


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