Federal Communications Commission

AT&T and T-Mobile team up to fight scam robocalls

Posted by | ajit pai, AT&T, authentication, caller id, Comcast, Federal Communications Commission, Mobile, scams, T-Mobile, technology, telecommunications, telemarketing, telephony | No Comments

Two major U.S. carriers, AT&T and T-Mobile, announced this morning a plan to team up to protect their respective customer bases from the scourge of scam robocalls. The two companies will today begin to roll out new cross-network call authentication technology based on the STIR/SHAKEN standards — a sort of universal caller ID system designed to stop illegal caller ID spoofing.

Robocalls have become a national epidemic. In 2018, U.S. mobile users received nearly 48 million robocalls — or more than 150 calls per adult, the carriers noted.

A huge part of the problem is that these calls now often come in with a spoofed phone number, making it hard for consumers to screen out unwanted calls on their own. That’s led to a rise in robocall blocking and screening apps. Even technology companies have gotten involved, with Google introducing a new AI call screener in Android and Apple rolling out Siri-powered spam call detection with iOS 13.

To help fight the call spoofing problem, the industry put together a set of standards called STIR/SHAKEN (Secure Telephony Identity Revisited / Secure Handling of Asserted information using toKENs), which effectively signs calls as “legitimate” as they travel through the interconnected phone networks.

However, the industry has been slow to roll out the system, which prompted the FCC to finally step in.

In November 2018, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai wrote to U.S. mobile operators, asking them to outline their plans around the implementation of the STIR/SHAKEN standards. The regulator also said that it would step in to mandate the implementation if the carriers didn’t meet an end-of-2019 deadline to get their call authentication systems in place.

Today’s news from AT&T and T-Mobile explains how the two will work together to authenticate calls across their networks. By implementing STIR/SHAKEN, calls will have their Caller ID signed as legitimate by the originating carrier, then validated by other carriers before they reach the consumer. Spoofed calls would fail this authentication process, and not be marked as “verified.”

As more carriers participate in this sort of authentication, more calls can be authenticated.

However, this system alone won’t actually block the spam calls — it just gives the recipient more information. In addition, devices will have to support the technology, as well, in order to display the new “verification” information.

T-Mobile earlier this year was first to launch a caller verification system on the Samsung Galaxy Note9, and today it still only works with select Android handsets from Samsung and LG. AT&T meanwhile, announced in March it was working with Comcast to exchange authenticated calls between two separate networks — a milestone in terms of cooperation between two carriers. T-Mobile and Comcast announced their own agreement in April.

The news also follows a statement by Chairman Pai that says the FCC will sign off to approve a T-Mobile/Sprint merger, as has been expected.

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SNES controller for Switch shows up in FCC filing, hinting at SNES games for Nintendo Online

Posted by | controller, Federal Communications Commission, Gadgets, Gaming, hardware, Nintendo, Nintendo 3DS, TC, video gaming, virtual console, Wii, Wii U | No Comments

Nintendo looks set to release wireless SNES controllers for the Nintendo Switch, which likely means it’ll also be bringing classic SNES titles to its Nintendo Online virtual gaming library. The news comes via an FCC filing (hat tip to Eurogamer), which includes a diagram of what looks very clearly to be the backside of a Super Nintendo-style wireless controller.

The diagram includes a model number that uses the “HAC” code that Nintendo employs to designate Switch accessories, and history suggests that the arrival of retro-inspired hardware for the Switch also means throwback games are on their way. Nintendo launched wireless NES controllers for the Nintendo Switch in September, and they arrived alongside NES games delivered via Nintendo Online as free perks for subscribers.

The FCC filing is more or less concrete proof that Nintendo intends to release something, but the rest is speculation (if very likely, informed speculation) at this point. Still, it seems inevitable that Nintendo bring its SNES library to the Switch, especially since it did so for the Wii Virtual Console before.

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Google’s Pixel 4 smartphone will have motion control and face unlock

Posted by | Android, Apple, computing, facial recognition, Federal Communications Commission, Gadgets, Google, hardware, HTC Dream, Mobile, mobile phones, PIXEL, Pixel 2, pixel 3, Pixel 4, smartphone, smartphones, TC, titan m | No Comments

Google’s Pixel 4 is coming out later this year, and it’s getting the long-reveal treatment thanks to a decision this year from Google to go ahead and spill some of the beans early, rather than saving everything for one big, final unveiling closer to availability. A new video posted by Google today about the forthcoming Pixel 4 (which likely won’t actually be available until fall) shows off some features new to this generation: Motion control and face unlock.

The new “Motion Sense” feature in the Pixel 4 will detect waves of your hand and translate them into software control, including skipping songs, snoozing alarms and quieting incoming phone call alerts, with more planned features to come, according to Google. It’s based on Soli, a radar-based fine motion detection technology that Google first revealed at its I/O annual developer conference in 2016. Soli can detect very fine movements, including fingers pinched together to mimic a watch-winding motion, and it got approval from the FCC in January, hinting it would finally be arriving in production devices this year.

Pixel 4 is the first shipping device to include Soli, and Google says it’ll be available in “select Pixel countries” at launch (probably due to similar approvals requirements wherever it rolls out to consumers).

Google also teased “Face unlock,” something it has supported in Android previously — but Google is doing it very differently with the Pixel 4 than it has been handled on Android in the past. Once again, Soli is part of its implementation, turning on the face unlock sensors in the device as it detects your hand reaching to pick up the device. Google says this should mean that the phone will be unlocked by the time you’re ready to use it, as it does this all on the fly, and works from pretty much any authentication.

Face unlock will be supported for authorizing payments and logging into Android apps, as well, and all of the facial recognition processing done for face unlock will occur on the device — a privacy-oriented feature that’s similar to how Apple handles its own Face ID. In fact, Google also will be storing all the facial recognition data securely in its own dedicated on-device Titan M security chip, another move similar to Apple’s own approach.

Google made the Pixel 4 official and tweeted photos (or maybe photorealistic renders) of the new smartphone back in June, bucking the trend of keeping things unconfirmed until an official reveal closer to release. Based on this update, it seems likely we can expect to learn more about the new smartphone ahead of its availability, which is probably going to happen sometime around October, based on past behavior.

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Nintendo introduces a Switch model refresh with better battery life

Posted by | Federal Communications Commission, Gadgets, Gaming, hardware, Nintendo, Nintendo Switch, TC | No Comments

Nintendo already announced an entirely new Switch console this month, the Switch Lite, and now it’s bumping some of the specs on the existing Switch with a slightly updated version, spotted by The Verge. This update improves the hardware right where it counts when it comes to Switch portable playing power.

The new model will provide between 4.5 and 9 hours of battery life, depending on use, which is a big bump from the 2.5 to 6.5 hour rating on the original hardware that’s been offered to date. This is likely an improvement derived from a change in the processor used in the console, as well as more power-efficient memory, both of which were detailed in an FCC filing from last week.

Nintendo’s official Switch comparison page lists the models with improved battery life as model number HAC-001(-01), with the bracketed addition distinguishing it from the original. You can check the version based on the serial number, with XKW preceding the newer hardware and XAW starting off serials for the older, less power-efficient version. It should arrive sometime in the middle of August, so if you’re in the market it’s worth taking a “wait and see” approach to ensure this battery-boosted hardware is the one you get.

In all other respects the two Switch models appear to be similar, if not identical, so it’s probably not enough of a change to get anyone considering an upgrade, unless the battery life on your current version really seems to fall about two hours short of your ideal play session length on average.

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FTC, Justice Dept. takes coordinated action against robocallers

Posted by | caller id, department of justice, Director, Federal Communications Commission, Federal Trade Commission, Mobile, neologisms, privacy, Security, telemarketing, telephony | No Comments

Federal authorities have announced its latest crackdown on illegal robocallers — taking close to a hundred actions against several companies and individuals blamed for the recent barrage of spam calls.

In the so-called “Operation Call It Quits,” the Federal Trade Commission brought four cases — two filed on its behalf by the Justice Department — and three settlements in cases said to be responsible for making more than a billion illegal robocalls.

Several state and local authorities also brought actions as part of the operation, officials said.

Each year, billions of automatically dialed or spoofed phone calls trick millions into picking up the phone. An annoyance at least, at worse it tricks unsuspecting victims into turning over cash or buying fake or misleading products. So far, the FTC has fined companies more than $200 million but only collected less than 0.01% of the fines because of the agency’s limited enforcement powers.

In this new wave of action, the FTC said it will send a strong signal to the robocalling industry.

Andrew Smith, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said Americans are “fed up” with the billions of robocalls received every year. “Today’s joint effort shows that combatting this scourge remains a top priority for law enforcement agencies around the nation,” he said.

It’s the second time the FTC has acted in as many months. In May, the agency also took action against four companies accused of making “billions” of robocalls.

The FTC said its latest action brings the number of robocall violators up to 145.

Several of the cases involved shuttering operations that offer consumers “bogus” credit card interest rate reduction services, which the FTC said specifically targeted seniors. Other cases involved the use of illegal robocalls to promote money-making schemes.

Another cases included actions against Lifewatch, a company pitching medical alert systems, which the FTC contended uses spoofed caller ID information to trick victims into picking up the phone. The company settled for $25.3 million. Meanwhile, Redwood Scientific settled for $18.2 million, suspended due to the inability for defendant Danielle Cadiz to pay, for “deceptively” marketing dentistry products, according to the FTC’s complaint.

The robocalling epidemic has caught the attention of the Federal Communications Commission, which regulates the telecoms and internet industries. Last month, its commissioners proposed a new rule that would make it easier for carriers to block robocalls.

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