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‘Stop Bad Robocall Act’ Is The House’s Way Of Ending Robocalls

But how exactly is it different from Senate’s TRACED Act?

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A bipartisan committee in the House has unveiled the Stop Bad Robocalls Act to put an end to the robocall epidemic.
New Jersey Rep. Frank Pallone (right), the committee’s Democratic chairman. Photo: New America | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Americans have been called by annoying and unwanted robocalls five million times in May alone. And today, the bi-partisan committee in the House of Representatives is taking a stand to curb the persistent problem of spam robocalls and spoofed calls across the U.S.

In a bipartisan bill called the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act, lawmakers aim to outlaw a plethora of corrupt practices employed by scammers and legitimate business alike to fight the growing nuisance of the robocalls epidemic. It also empowers the government and regulatory bodies like the Federal Communication Commission and the Federal Trade Commission to levy heavier punishments against robocallers who violate the law.

The new anti-robocall bill was put forward by both Democrats and Republican members of the tech-focused House Energy and Commerce Committee and is scheduled to be voted upon next week. It comes following the increasing pressure on Washington to resolve the robocalls problem and the criticism the government drew for its failure to do so.

The proposed legislation would require the FCC to update its definition of what qualifies as a robocall, which would potentially subject more companies to stricter calling regulations and requirements of consent. The FCC would also have to ensure that entities would circumvent no rules or legislation by using advanced or newer robocalling technologies.

According to data released by YouMail, a company which offers a smartphone call-blocking app, more than five million robocalls were sent to Americans in May 2019 alone – a number that is double the amount from the previous two years. This highlights how much robocalls grew over time, and it pushes forward the agenda of putting an end to annoying and scamming calls.

The robocall epidemic

The effects of robocalls aren’t just mere annoyance. They create real-life problems like how a scam robocall is waking up Americans at night with a single ring to prompt them to call back which leads them to an international number that effectively skyrocket’s the victim’s phone bills. Aside from this, other modus operandi includes extorting money from unsuspecting victims by posing as a legitimate collection agency by using several call spoofing techniques.

Recently, experts argued that robocalls also affect businesses and organizations – especially medical institutions. A report reveals that hospitals have been receiving a tremendous amount of robocalls daily, which costs them a considerable amount of hospital time and limits their ability to respond to real emergencies. Worse, hospitals are also saying that if this problem escalates, it could lead up to a full-blown health crisis where hospitals can no longer respond to legitimate patient calls.

“Americans deserve to be free of the daily danger and harassment of robocalls,” New Jersey Rep. Frank Pallone, the committee’s Democratic chairman, and Oregon Rep. Greg Walden, its top Republican, said in a joint statement. “It’s time we end the robocall epidemic and restore trust back into our phone system.”

Senate’s TRACED Act

Meanwhile, similar legislation was also voted in the Senate a few weeks ago. Known as the TRACED (Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence) Act, the new law 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.

TRACED also aims to make the FCC work with the Federal Trade Commission, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to find ways to improve anti-robocall measures and prosecute offenders collectively. It will also require carriers to implement measures like SHAKEN/STIR to help consumers identify and authenticate callers.

The difference between Stopping Bad Robocalls Act and TRACED Act

While the two legislations appear similar, they have considerable differences. Jim Tyrrell, Senior Director of Product Marketing at Transaction Network Services, which powers robocall detection solutions for Tier 1 carriers and analyzes more than 1 billion call events every day to detect emerging robocaller trends and tactics told Z6Mag that new law diverges from the TRACED law because it also focuses on unwanted texts and not just calls alone.

It also has a longer statute of limitations, which is four years, as compared to the TRACED law, which has only three years of statute of limitations. It is also noteworthy that the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act has specified that robocalls should not bear additional costs to subscribers and a call authentication framework, but doesn’t specifically mention STIR/SHAKEN or a timeframe to be implemented by all voice providers– which isn’t as detailed in the TRACED Act.

Should the new legislation from both the House and the Senate as well as the freshly voted regulation from the FCC to allow carriers to block robocalls by default be enough to end the robocall epidemic? Only time can tell.

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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2.2 Million More Patient-Victims Of AMCA Data Breach Came Forward

Clinical Pathology Laboratories blamed AMCA for not providing them enough information back in June.

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Photo: Thirteen Of Clubs Follow | Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

A month after the medical collection portal owned by the American Medical Collection Agency (AMCA) fell victim to a data breach that has affected more than 20 million of their users from different blood testing laboratories and medical institutions around the country, a new AMCA partner lab came forward and said that their clients were also affected by the data breach.

According to Clinical Pathology Laboratories (CPL), 2.2 million clients may have had their names, addresses, phone numbers, dates of birth, dates of service, balance information, and treatment provider information stolen from the previously reported data breach involving AMCA.

Last month, data were stolen from users of the AMCA payment portal that was used to pay for laboratory fees by more than 20 million victims. These data include their names, phone numbers, dates of birth, home addresses, social security numbers, credit card numbers, and other bank details.

The list of impacted testing laboratories includes Quest Diagnostics (11.9 million patients), LabCorp (7.7 million patients), BioReference Laboratories (Opko Health subsidiary, 422,600 patients), Carecentrix (500,000 patients), and Sunrise Laboratories (undisclosed number of patients).

This time, Clinical Pathology Laboratories (CPL) says that an additional 2.2 million victims of the data breach come from their client list, and another 34,500 patients had their credit card or banking information compromised.

The company blamed the late announcement from CPL to AMCA for not providing them with enough information regarding the breach when it was first disclosed in June.

“At the time of AMCA’s initial notification, AMCA did not provide CPL with enough information for CPL to identify potentially affected patients or confirm the nature of patient information potentially involved in the incident, and CPL’s investigation is on-going,” said the company in a statement.

As of today, it is still unclear whether AMCA nor its partner companies have reached out to their clients to personally notify them about the data breach. Back in June, AMCA first disclosed that only 200,000 clients had their data compromised. However, reports from its partners have confirmed that the victim tally reaches 20 million.

AMCA and partners were slapped with lawsuits

AMCA, Quest, and LabCorp in June were slapped with at least 19 lawsuits concerning the data leak. More than 19 class-suite actions have been filed against the three companies for their involvement in the breach and their inability to fulfill the promise of protecting their clients’ sensitive information.

According to one of the lawyers in one of the lawsuits hurdled against the involved companies, healthcare providers are one of the most susceptible entities, but they have lackluster data protection systems.

“Healthcare companies are especially susceptible to data breaches not only because they aggregate a tremendous amount of important and sensitive data, but also because they tend to be less focused on cybersecurity protection than other industries,” said John Yanchunis of Morgan and Morgan, one of the firms who filed lawsuits against Quest Diagnostics.

Yanchunis said that these companies “know [that] they are at an increased risk and yet have not taken the proper steps to protect their patients’ data.”

AMCA filed for bankruptcy

Amid the data breach that centers the American Medical Collection Agency, the company has filed for bankruptcy and laid off more than 70% of its workforce, as cost in mitigating the impacts of the leak has to lead the company to lose a massive amount of money.

According to the company, the data breach “resulted in enormous expenses that were beyond the ability of the Debtor to bear.”

“Almost immediately upon learning of the breach, LabCorp unqualifiedly and indefinitely terminated its relationship with the Debtor,” the filing reads.

“Soon after, Quest Diagnostics, Conduent, Inc., and CareCentrix, Inc. which together with LabCorp were the Debtor’s four largest clients, stopped sending new work to the Debtor, and all terminated or substantially curtailed their business relationships with the Debtor.”

Cybersecurity experts have estimated that the company most likely to spend at least $400,000 for cyber forensics alone. Add to that the cost of IT support, severe restrictions that were put in place to protect AMCA’s network from further intrusion, looming court cases, and the loss of valuable business partners; it is most likely that the company was driven to the abyss of bankruptcy by the data breach.

Of course, to cut cost, AMCA has also laid off employees and only retained those who are significant in the legal battles it faces, including the lawsuits and its request for bankruptcy. AMCA’s current employee count is down from 113 to 25, which practically cut of 78% of its human resources. Fuchs has asked the court to consider a motion which will ensure the firm’s remaining staff will be paid during the process.

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Treasury Chief Says Crypto Is A “National Security Risk”

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Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin | 7/25/17 (Official White House Photo by Ricky Harris)

A new jab was thrown against Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies from the US government after statements from the U.S. Treasury Secretary branded the industry as a “national security threat.”

Facebook’s announcement of Libra has brought crypto and blockchain technology in the center stage, as governments around the world have heightened their scrutiny on the alternative financial system that the industry is offering.

Government executives and high ranking officials have raised concerns on the volatility of the technology, and how it is being used by malicious actors to facilitate illegal transactions such as money laundering and illegal drugs.

Now, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin chimed in the conversation and echoed earlier apprehensions versus Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies. The Secretary warns that Bitcoin, as well as, Facebook’s plans for Libra, pose a “national security issue” for the United States.

“This is indeed a national security issue,” Mnuchin told reporters at a press conference yesterday. “Cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin have been exploited to support billions of dollars of illicit activity like cyber crime, tax evasion, extortion, ransomware, illicit drugs, and human trafficking,” adding that Facebook’s Libra “could be misused by money launderers and terrorist financiers.”

Mnuchin echoed other politicians stance on Facebook’s Libra venture and said that he was “not comfortable” by the idea of it.

Trump vs. Crypto

In a series of tweets on last week, the POTUS said that he is not a “fan” of cryptocurrencies, asserted that America has only one currency, criticized bitcoin, as well as told Facebook that they need a banking charter if they want to launch their newly announced crypto-based money called Libra.

Trump said cryptocurrencies are not money, and “Unregulated Crypto Assets can facilitate unlawful behavior, including drug trade and other illegal activity.”

“If Facebook and other companies want to become a bank, they must seek a new Banking Charter and become subject to all Banking Regulations,” said the president.

Related: Trump Vs. Crypto: Dollar Is The Only Currency Of The USA

According to the President, the dollar is the only currency in America, and Libra, among other cryptocurrencies, are not “real money.”

“We have only one real currency in the USA, and it is stronger than ever, both dependable and reliable. It is by far the most dominant currency anywhere in the World, and it will always stay that way. It is called the United States Dollar!” Trump said in a tweet.

Trump’s anti-crypto stand was agreed upon by Mnuchin saying that “the president does have concerns as it relates to bitcoin and cryptocurrencies—those are legitimate concerns that we have been working on for a long period of time.”

Democrats vs. Crypto

Joining Trump’s army against cryptocurrencies and Facebook’s Libra plans are Democrats from the Senate who recently circulated a draft proposal that bans big tech companies from issuing digital money.

The bill, which was bluntly named as “Keep Big Tech Out Of Finance Act,” circulates among Democrats majority that leads the U.S. House Financial Services Committee, proves that the US government is not joking about its position against Libra and other similar ventures in the future.

Read More: Democrats Move To Ban Big Techs From Issuing Digital Money

According to the proposed bill, no tech company should be allowed to issue any form of financial services. “A large platform utility may not establish, maintain, or operate a digital asset that is intended to be widely used as a medium of exchange, unit of account, store of value, or any other similar function, as defined by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System,” reads a copy of the bill obtained by Z6Mag.

Furthermore, while the bill does not specify any company, it clearly refers to Facebook, and it’s planned blockchain-based currency, Libra. The “large platform utility” is defined as a technology company with “[an] annual global revenue of $25,000,000,000 or more” and one that is “predominately engaged in the business of offering to the public an online marketplace, an exchange, or a platform for connecting third parties.” This definition seems to be crafted to include Facebook rather than exclude other companies.

It is also worth noting that the proposed legislation also prohibits “large platform utilities” from affiliation with “persons who are a financial institution.” This further includes Facebook’s proactive workaround against possible future laws that may prohibit them from owning Libra.

Nonetheless, the bill is still in its earliest phase yet, and many could happen to move forward. For it to become a law, it still has to withstand the possible opposition by Republicans in both the House and the Senate.

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Senator To Facebook’s Libra: ‘Can People Trust You?’

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Photo: BTC Keychain | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

When it comes to Facebook’s Libra, the US government has made one thing clear: they don’t trust the tech giant and its plan to release an alternative financial system based on the highly debated blockchain technology.

In a Senate hearing today, a Facebook executive was grilled by lawmakers in the Senate Banking Committee over the plan to issue its digital currency and its possible effect on the global banking and financial ecosystem.

Facebook announced a month ago that it would roll out a new form of digital money, called Libra, which the tech superpower claims to be a stable coin. Unlike its predecessor, Bitcoin, the Silicon Valley giant claims that Libra is a cryptocurrency backed by real-world money and government certificates, and is also supported by a group of corporations such as Mastercard, Paypal, and VISA.

Libra is set to be available for circulation early next year, but a few weeks following Facebook’s announcement, staunch government opposition has proved difficult for Libra to push through with its most ambitious plan.

“Facebook has said ‘just trust us’” Senator Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio, said at the hearing. “And every time Americans trust you, they seem to get burned.”

Many governments around the world have echoed concerns on how Facebook will handle such an ambitious feat. Many claims that because of the company’s reputation in data security, it is hard to trust Facebook in handling people’s money.

“Trust is primordial”

“Do you really think people should trust Facebook with their hard-earned money?” Senator Brown asked Facebook’s exec, David Marcus.

As a response, Marcus said that the company would do its best to protect people’s money, as well as, prevent fraud and other illegal activities that malicious actors may carry out using Facebook’s Libra.

One of the significant critiques against Facebook’s digital money comes from the fact that cryptocurrencies are not well regulated and criminal element can leverage the technology and use Libra for money laundering and other forms of illegal payments.

“We’ve made mistakes in the past,” Mr. Marcus said. “We have been working, and are working hard to get better.”

“Trust is primordial,” he added.

Keep Big Tech Out Of Finance Act

The Senate hearing comes a day after a copy of a draft proposal in the Senate penned by Democrat senators surfaced that practically bans major tech companies from issuing digital currencies.

Read: [Breaking] Democrats Move To Ban Big Techs From Issuing Digital Money

A new draft proposal for the bill, bluntly named as “Keep Big Tech Out Of Finance Act,” that circulates among Democrats majority that leads the U.S. House Financial Services Committee, proves that the US government is serious about its position against Libra and other similar ventures in the future.

According to the proposed bill, no tech company should be allowed to issue any form of financial services. “A large platform utility may not establish, maintain, or operate a digital asset that is intended to be widely used as a medium of exchange, unit of account, store of value, or any other similar function, as defined by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System,” reads a copy of the bill obtained by Z6Mag.

Global fiscal and legislative resistance vs. Libra

Furthermore, while the bill does not specify any company, it clearly refers to Facebook, and it’s planned blockchain-based currency, Libra. The “large platform utility” is defined as a technology company with “[an] annual global revenue of $25,000,000,000 or more” and one that is “predominately engaged in the business of offering to the public an online marketplace, an exchange, or a platform for connecting third parties.” This definition seems to be crafted to include Facebook rather than exclude other companies.

It is also worth noting that the proposed legislation also prohibits “large platform utilities” from affiliation with “persons who are a financial institution.” This further includes Facebook’s proactive workaround against possible future laws that may prohibit them from owning Libra.

European officials have also expressed concern regarding Libra, citing that the system, if widely adopted, could shake the global economy and rival national banks. French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire sent a letter to officials from the G7 and International Monetary Fund calling for a group to examine Libra’s impact on the global financial system. Le Maire said that Libra must not become a “sovereign currency,” while a German politician noted Facebook’s potential to become a “shadow bank” to the global financial system.

Aside from European officials, Japanese lawmakers are also investigating the possible impact of Facebook’s Libra in global banking and financial systems ahead of the G-7 Meeting of the country’s finance ministry to be held in France this week.

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