After rise of SMS scams, NTC orders telco providers to block clickable links in texts

·2 min read

The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) has ordered the country’s telecommunication providers to block clickable links from malicious websites in text messages, following the recent alarming rise in SMS scams.

“Telcos are hereby ordered to block or deactivate domains or URLs, TinyURLs, Smart Links, and/or QR Codes emanating from malicious sites based on existing database culled from government agencies such as the National Telecommunications Commission, National Privacy Commission, Department of Trade and Industry, law enforcement agencies, subscriber reports and those generated from machine learning or artificial intelligence,” the NTC memo read.

The commission also directed providers to submit a written report of compliance by September 16.

The order from the NTC comes after lawmakers sounded the alarm as they, too, had begun receiving more of these messages, many of which bore their full names.

These texts range from spoofs of bank notifications, which claim a user’s account has been blocked and require they click on a URL to retrieve it, to dodgy quick-cash schemes that involve clicking on certain ads or links.

Globe and Smart, the Philippines’ major telecommunications companies, said last week that they had spent billions of pesos strengthening their infrastructure to combat cybercrime and block scam messages.

READ: Worried about text scams featuring your full name? Globe, Smart say they’re working on it

While some netizens said they were grateful to hear that malicious clickable links would be blocked, others were skeptical that it would deter scammers as they would likely just change their schemes to get around the new regulation.

Others have also called on the government to pass the SIM Card Registration Act, which was vetoed last year by President Rodrigo Duterte.

“Prepaid SIM cards should also be registered, so we know who uses them,” one comment read.

“Selling of prepaid SIM cards must also be done through legitimate authorized dealer-outlets,” another suggested. “So many of them just sell them everywhere — on the streets, in sari-sari stores, in homes.”

A bill requiring SIM cards to be registered was approved at the committee level of the House of Representatives last week in response to the growing threat of SMS scams.