SMS and spam

Yesterday, Luc CHATEL, the French minister of Industry and Consumption announced an initiative to stop spam on SMS. When receiving an alleged spammed SMS, user may forward it to a call center at number 33700.

How it will operate exactly is not extremely clear. The numerous comments from media described a simple method. When entering more in the details (see diagram ), the system is far more complex.
The number of the spam’s emitter will not be transferred with the first transfer. The user just receives an acknowledgment. OPTIONALLY, the user may forward the message a second time, at the same number 33700. Only then, the caller ID of the spam’s emitter will be transmitted. After the second “call”, the system starts to analyze and eventually trigger retaliation against the spammer.

An important information: the call to 33700 is not free. It costs the price of an SMS! When asked why this number was not free, the minister answered (interviewed by Jean Luc Hess on Radio Classique 22 October)that there were three potential entities that could pay for the service: the state, the telco operators, or the consumers. He preferred to put the burden on consumers. He considered it as a good citizen action.

This will simply not work, for at least two reasons:
– The two-step process is a non sense from usability point of view. How do you want the people to make a mental model of this system? Why should the user call twice the same number? I looked for a rationale. the best one I found was to restrict the number of starting analysis, thus reducing cost. Would each call trigger a human action, it would soon become too costly.
– Once more the economic incentives are not aligned. The person who suffers from the threat (spam) is also bearing the cost of the spotting. the entities that indirectly benefits from SMS spams, i.e. telco operators do not bear the cost of the countermeasures. Misaligned incentives generate failed security system.

33700 is probably a nice propaganda tool but will never be an efficient anti-spam tool. :Wink:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *