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FCC Warning: Don’t Call Back A Single-Ring Call

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FCC warns consumers against Wangiri Modus.

With the continuous and heightened crackdown of the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) and other relevant government agencies against the plague caused by thousands of robocalls from companies and scammers, the regulator warned Americans with a new form of robocalling scam that rings the phone of their victims in the middle of the night in the hopes of them calling the spoofed numbers back.

The FCC warns consumers that a new scamming method has surfaced in different states called the “one ring” or “wangiri” scam where the culprits would call a consumer to have their phones ring just once, luring them into making a call back thinking that it could be an urgent call that they’ve missed.

According to the warning by the FCC, once a consumer calls back the spoofed numbers who rang their phone once, this would result in expensive additional telephone charges “billed at a higher-than-normal rate.”

To help consumers understand the new modus of robocallers in the wangiri scam, the agency released a document entitled “Consumer Guide on ‘One Ring’ Phone Scam.” According to the document, some of the calls may “appear to be from phone numbers somewhere in the United States, including three initial digits that resemble U.S. area codes.” However, some other savvy scammers often use area codes coming from other countries.

Based on the investigation conducted by the government agency, the spoofed calls appear to be coming from the African countries of Lithuania, Sierra Leone, and Mauritania. The wangiri calls use the country code of “222” which is the code for the said West African Nations.

Another area code tagged by the FCC in the document is “649” that goes to the Turks and Caicos and “809” that goes to the Dominican Republic.

Nonetheless, there is no information whether or not the calls did originate from the said countries or they are just from the USA, and the culprits were only spoofing the country code that appears in the wangiri calls that were made. Technology nowadays allows users to mask their private numbers with a different area and country code when they call. While this technology is helpful for a business who manage different branches from other states, it is, as evidenced in the newly discovered scam, can also be used to fool people into thinking that a call may be an important one.

“If you call such number, you risk being connected to a phone number outside the U.S. As a result, you wind up being charged a fee for connecting, along with significant per-minute fees for as long as they can keep you on the phone. These charges may show up on your bill as premium services,” added the FCC.

Furthermore, the newly discovered scam operate under the pretense of phony voice messages urging consumers to call a specific number to collect a prize or to “notify you about a ‘sick’ relative.”

In the same document, the FCC offered several tips in order for consumers to not fall victims of this specific robocall scam. According to the guide, consumers should not answer or return any calls from telephone numbers that are unfamiliar, or they did not recognize.

Another tip from the FCC is to double check whether or not the unfamiliar they are calling has international area codes, and if it is unnecessary, consumers should ask their phone companies to block their international calling services.

If in case a consumer fell victim to this new modus operandi of robocall scammers, the FCC advice the victim to file a complaint. The agency also urges consumers to settle the matter with their phone service providers first; however, if they are not able to resolve the issue on this level, the FCC can handle the complaint at no cost.

In the end,being vigilant is the most essential virtue in the age of robocallers and fraudsters that operate using telecommunication technology. While these scammers have the equipment to robocall anyone they want for profit, consumers have the power of information to choose to ignore it or to report it to the authorities. When more people are aware of the modus operandi by which these robocallers operate, the more people will be saved from the torment caused by overcharging for an unauthorized calling. /apr

A consumer tech and cybersecurity journalist who does content marketing while daydreaming about having unlimited coffee for life and getting a pet llama.

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Cybersecurity

Boost Mobile Disclosed Credential Stuffing Attack Two Months Post-Breach

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Boost Mobile suffered from a credential stuffing attack but they only notified users two months after.

The rise of the internet has helped businesses in countless ways, especially in terms of communication. One of the innovations that have revolutionized industries and opened new opportunities to millions of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) is the VoIP or Voice over IP. The technology allows businesses to make and receive calls using the internet, which is practically a lot more inexpensive than traditional telephone lines.

However, as VoIP operates through the world wide web, technology is also vulnerable to cyber attacks. This is evidenced by what happened to Sprint-owned virtual mobile network operator Boost Mobile when they were targeted by a particular cyber attack.

The alarming part of what happened to Boost Mobile is that they failed to alert their users immediately after they found out that their data were breached. According to a recent “quiet” announcement, Boost Mobile suffered from a data breach two months ago that allowed hackers to access some user accounts.

“Boost.com experienced unauthorized online account activity in which an unauthorized person accessed your account through your Boost phone number and Boost.com PIN code,” said the notification. “The Boost Mobile fraud team discovered the incident and was able to implement a permanent solution to prevent similar unauthorized account activity.”

According to the notice posted on the Boost Mobile website, the said breach occurred on March 14th, 2019, but it seems that they only notified their customers and disclose information about the breach two months after they discovered the cyber attack. According to the notice, the breach resulted in several customer phone numbers and PIN codes being exposed.

No information was also disclosed regarding how many people are affected by the current breach. But the company notified California’s attorney general regarding the incident, means the number of victims could be more than 500.

Note: Legislations in California require businesses to inform the attorney general whenever a data breach affecting 500 or more people.

While the company kept mum on the number of victims, they, however, was able to confirm that the data breach was a consequence of a targeted attack.

“The Boost IT team identified unusual activity on a page of the Boost.com website, blocked access and not long after implemented a permanent solution,” said the spokesperson. “Customers’ credit card and social security numbers are encrypted and were not compromised.”

The notification also noted that the hackers used the phone numbers and PIN collected from the breach in accessing customer accounts in the Boost Mobile website. These codes can be used to alter account settings. Hackers can automate account logins using lists of exposed usernames and passwords — or in this case phone numbers and PIN codes — in what’s known as a credential stuffing attack.

Credential stuffing attacks have been designed by hackers to be completely automated, making use of extensive collections of stolen credentials bought from the black market to be able to brute force their entry to a computing system. Other several companies have been attacked by this type of modus operandi as well. Credential stuffing attacks have also infiltrated the networks of other popular brands such as TurboTax, Dunkin’ Donuts, Basecamp, and Dailymotion in the first quarter of 2019.

A similar incident also happened to the popular Japanese clothing brand UNIQLO, when a credential stuffing attack also compromised data of almost 500,000 customers. Nearly half a million accounts have been compromised as the internal server of the famous Japanese clothing brand, UNIQLO, has been breached, according to a notification sent out by the company today.

The announcement states that the UNIQLO Japan and GU Japan online stores have been hacked and third parties were able to gain access to 461,091 customer accounts following a credential stuffing attack on their servers.

According to the notification that the company sent out to the affected accounts, the credentials stuffing attack, which led to the data breach, took place between April 23rd and May 10th this year. However, the number of compromised account could be higher because the investigation is yet to be concluded.

“While the number of incidents and circumstances may change during the investigation, Fast Retailing is today providing notice of the facts as determined at present, and the company’s response,” says Fast Retailing.

Meanwhile, Boost Mobile said that they have already sent temporary PINs to affected customers via a text message. It is still unclear whether the two incidents were related or not.

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RingCentral VoIP Review

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We reviewed RingCentral's VoIP offers

VoIP has had a significant shift from a technology exclusively used by the early adopters or hobbyist to a widely adopted business form of communication. The industry expects an annual growth rate of 3.1% between 2019 to 2024 with a value ranging from 77.4 million USD in 2018 to 93.2 million USD by the end of 2024.

Undoubtedly, the business is exponentially growing at a breakneck pace, and VoIP providers are flocking in, offering packages that may or may not fit to what your business goals are. Hence, with our continued interest of unraveling the best VoIP provider, we are going to review key players in the industry and showcase opinions that will help businesses to determine solutions that work.

RingCentral Review

When it comes to the VoIP race, RingCentral is one of those providers that you won’t miss out not to mention. Aside from its flexible pricing offers, the company has established a solid foundation in catering the communication needs of small-time businesses and large enterprises.

RingCentral was founded back in 1999 by Vlad Shmunis, and since then, the cloud-based company introduced new ways to connect and collaborate remotely. For almost 20 years of providing VoIP services, RingCentral has significantly banked on its easy VoIP setup, competitive prices, and cloud-based management system. In a sense, the VoIP provider established itself as one of the big names in the VoIP market.

Pricing

RingCentral Pricing Offers

As previously mentioned, RingCentral offers versatile and relatively competitive price packages. RingCentral starts things off with their Essential Plan that costs $19.99/month, which is suitable for small-time businesses with less than ten employees. The package supports up to 10 users with a four-person limit on its audio and video meeting feature.

The Essential Plan unlocks RingCentral 24/7 customer support lines and offers unlimited phone calling, 100 toll-free minutes, customer management and phone service administration, and other basic features necessary for small-time businesses.

The next tier that RingCentral offers is the Standard Plan which costs $24.99/month. The $5 difference from its Essential package provides businesses with a little more space to work with, especially with its zero-limit on the number of users. However, video and audio conferencing are still limited to four people at a time.

The RingCentral Standard Plan doesn’t have much of a difference from its Essential plan, aside from getting 1,000 toll-free minutes per month. Further, the package credits you the same basic feature with a multi-level auto attendant that works as a virtual receptionist for routing calls to the right department. The Standard Plan also credits you internet fax and call log support that will come in handy during end-of-the-month business reporting.

If you think the previous offerings are small enough to fit your business needs, RingCentral has a Premium plan that costs $34.99/month. The package poses a vast amount of support for your business such as multi-site support, custom app development and deployment, and SalesForce, Zendesk, and Desk integration. The RingCentral Premium pushes the audio and video meeting limit to 100 people with toll-free minutes of up to 2,500/month. You’ll also get Voicemail Transcription to Text support which converts voicemails to text for easy documentation.

The last tier that RingCentral offers is the Ultimate Plan for $49.99/month. The package provides the same amount of support as the Premium but boosts the number of minutes to 10,000 and the audio/video meeting bandwidth to 200 people.

How It Works?

Before starting things off with RingCentral, the first thing you need to know is if the service or the package fits your business goals. If the answer is yes, then there are two ways in installing RingCentral; its either you use your existing phones, or you purchase new equipment from RingCentral themselves.

If you opt to use your current desk phones, installing RingCentral is as easy as plug and play. Just plug your phones and computers to the internet jacks and install the RingCentral app to your employees’ smartphones. After installation, you’ll get to enjoy all the features based on the RingCentral package you opt to choose. And, since RingCentral is cloud-based, you can use its dedicated app for all your voice calls, faxing, audio/video conferencing needs.

With RingCentral’s plethora of features, you don’t have to rely on your traditional phone lines to handle all your business communication requirements. You’ll get competitive management support, technology-forward IVRs, relaxing hold music, call management, and other basic features put in place so that you’ll never miss a call again.

Comparison and Contrast

RingCentral is indeed one of the top tier VoIP providers in the market today. Its call management feature that enables businesses to customize their ways of communicating is one the best qualifier for RingCentral. You’ll get call forwarding on the go with easy deployment based on your business or department’s answering rules. You can easily configure automatic call recording and convert them to text for easy documentation. You’ll also enjoy auto attendant, a feature that directs calls on the right department, to ensure that all requests go to the right person and provide solutions at first touch.

However, comparing RingCentral to other VoIP providers, there are noticeable differences that one cannot just disregard. Let’s use Nextiva for example. Nextiva is also one to the leading VoIP players today, and statistically speaking, Nextiva is a highly-acclaimed cloud-based software provider with 99.99% reliability rate across NYC to Seattle.

Nextiva Pricing Table

Nextiva’s VoIP plans provide consumers more flexibility at a more cheaper rate. For $20, Nextiva’s Basic Plan equates to RingCentral’s Standard Plan with more added features. You’ll get additional support such as Advance Call Management and number porting for free.

Nextiva’s Pro Plan steps the notch even higher. You’ll get a customized greeting feature that works significantly in building your brand. Furthermore, you’ll receive Text Messaging support that enables you to connect with your team and customers at your own pace and desire. Limitation towards the number of people allowed for conferencing is not much of a concern within Nextiva’s VoIP packages. In a sense, you’ll get more added support at a price relatively cheaper than what you get from RingCentral.

When setting up Nextiva, you can opt for Nextiva’s professional installers to set up your VoIP lines for free. Through this installation method, you’ll get to work with Nextiva on how you want to customize your VoIP solution. This method also eliminates common installation failure. But, with regards to the accessibility of installing Nextiva’s VoIP, you’ll get the same amount of convenience RingCentral offers.

The Verdict

RingCentral is, without a doubt, a competitive VoIP provider. However, the limitations on specific price plans are very concerning. Its Essential Plan lacks mobility and essential features like auto attendant and automatic call recording that are necessary for today’s business needs; unless you pay $15 more to employ such elements.

While, if you compare it to companies like Nextiva, who are offering relatively the same or more amount of features on its basic plan, it enables businesses to manage communications with more flexibility without paying more than it should be. And, with today’s competitive market, getting extra elements at a price lesser than the other, is a motivational factor to choose Nextiva aside from RingCentral.

More importantly, in choosing your cloud-based solution, you should understand what your business goals are, and see if the provider offer such features. Don’t just settle with prices, and pick a solution that enables you to manage your calls and business needs on a much broader scale.

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VoIP

Lawmakers Are Fed Up With Robocalls And They Want An End ASAP

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New laws being deliberated and proposed to curb the robocall problem.

The problem of the ballooning cases of robocalls in the United States is so undeniable that legislators are on haste to pass a new law that would potentially put an end to the annoying nuisance of unwanted and spoofed calls that are targeting them, their family, and their constituents.

Fed up the bugging concern over robocalling and other VoIP scams, lawmakers have launched a bipartisan broadside against robocalls. The new legislation introduced by Senator Hohn Thune, R-S.D., would ramp up penalties for violators, put more onus on major telecom and cell service provider to address the problem and do a better job of authenticating calls, and offer ways to block neighborhood “spoofers” and other modus operandi. Neighborhood spoofing happens when scammers are tricking a caller ID into believing that a call is coming from a local area code, inducing validity to the call.

“I think that I’m like everybody else that has cellphones and is constantly, constantly interrupted by these nuisance calls,” Sen. John Thune said in an interview.

Both the House and the Senate are working hard to hasten the passing of the different legislative efforts to stop the notoriety of robocalls in the United States. They recognize that there should be a more heightened crackdown on a problem that grew significantly higher in recent years.

According to Hiya, a Seattle-based software company, a total of 26.3 billion robocalls were received by Americans in 2018, a 46 percent increase from the only 18 billion in 2017. Furthermore, complaints regarding robocalls and call spamming is the most common complaint received by both the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). In 2018 alone, the FTC has received more than 3.7 million complaints relating to robocalls and other telecom scams while the FCC received 232,000 complaints on unwanted phone calls that include robocalls and telemarketing calls.

A few months ago, major telecom players in the United States joined forces to curb the robocall problem in the country. AT&T, together with Verizon and Comcast is set to launch a new technology that would allow users to screen and validate the phone calls that they receive. Reportedly, the companies will tap into an authentication technology called SHAKEN/STIR that will authenticate if the phone number on a user’s caller ID is the phone number that originated the call.

Nonetheless, technology has been very friendly to robocallers as there are systems now that allowed them to target thousands of consumers in an hour with minimal effort. Basically, as critics suggest, it will only render the Do Not Call Registry (DNC) somewhat moot. However, FTC said that the list “still works well for the same job it was intended to do,” but that it doesn’t deter “criminals or fraudsters.”

The TRACED Act, as submitted and authored by Sen. Thune, was unanimously approved by the Senate Commerce Committee last month and as it was back by a bipartisan group of lawmakers, there is a very hopeful chance that it would push the major telecom companies to authenticate calls better, so consumers know where those calls are coming from.

Meanwhile, another set of legislation is being deliberated in the House Energy and Commerce Committee led by Chairman Frank Pallone, D-N.J. The law that the lawmaker introduced would close the legal loopholes that robocallers exploit and at the same time prompt telecom companies to provide blocking services against call “spoofers” free of charge.

“I hear from my constituents in New Jersey all the time about how fed up they are with robocalls,” Pallone said. “It is incredibly annoying to repeatedly get unwanted calls from people you don’t know and don’t want to talk to.”

“[The robocall problem] “has gotten so bad that you can watch videos of people getting robocalls while they’re in the middle of making a video complaining about robocalls,” chimed in by Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Pa.

Nonetheless, the mere existence of robocalls isn’t what legislators are after for. Thune said that his focus is those scam artists who try to get people to send money to fraudulent causes.

“And at the same time, hopefully we’ll get rid of a lot of the annoying and nuisance type calls that everybody gets on their cellphone,” he continued, noting that complaints about those calls “became one of the most [frequent] calls into our office and things you would hear people talking about in conversation.”

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