The UK’s banking and mobile industries have partnered with spy chiefs to crack down on text message scams linked to the Covid-19 crisis.
The new campaign is aimed at tackling so-called spoofing techniques, where cyber criminals mimic legitimate businesses or organisations to trick unsuspecting victims into handing over sensitive information.
Many scammers have attempted to exploit the ongoing coronavirus crisis, such as by mimicking official government communications.
The new scheme, led by the Mobile Ecosystem Forum (MEF), Mobile UK and UK Finance, is aimed at identifying and blocking fraudulent texts, as well as safeguarding messages from genuine companies and organisations.
The cross-industry initiative has drawn up a blacklist to block messages from sources that have been used to send scam texts. So far more than 400 sender IDs have been blocked, including 70 related to Covid-19.
The campaign, which is supported by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), has also established a white list, allowing organisations to register and protect the sender IDs they use when sending out legitimate messages.
Fifty bank and government brands have already signed up to the initiative, with 172 trusted sender IDs registered to date.
“Mobile companies work hard to protect their customers from fraud and the contribution from the industry to the registry will help reduce the number of scam texts pretending to be from trusted brands,” said Gareth Elliott, head of policy and communications at Mobile UK.
“This gives much-needed protection against fraud, including for the most vulnerable customers.”
It comes a day after the NCSC said it had taken down more than 2,000 online scams linked to the coronavirus, including almost 500 online shops selling fraudulent virus-related products.
The cyber agency, which is part of GCHQ, also launched a new email spam reporting service as part of a cross-governmental Cyber Aware campaign.
“We are pleased to be supporting this experiment which is yielding promising results,” said NCSC technical director Ian Levy.
“The UK government’s recent mass-text campaign on Covid-19 has demonstrated the need for such industry collaboration in order to protect consumers from these kinds of scams.”