Anti-Wireless Spam Bill Introduced at Senate

U.S. Senators Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) and Bill Nelson (D-FL) have joined forces to solve the worsening problem of wireless spam. The two have introduced a bill to solve the growing number of unsolicited text messages which have caused headaches to millions of cell phone users.

Dubbed the m-SPAM Act, the legislation improves existing anti-spam laws and boosts the powers granted to the Federal Communications Commission and Federal Trade Commission to crack down on unwanted SMS.

Most importantly, the legislation gives consumers protection by making it such a no-no to send commercial text messages to wireless numbers listed on the Do-Not-Call registry.

“Mobile spam invades both a consumer’s cell phone and monthly bill,” Snowe said in a statement. “There is also increasing concern that mobile spam will become more than just an annoyance–the viruses and malicious spyware that are often attached to traditional spam will most likely be more prevalent on wireless devices through m-spam. This significant and looming threat must be addressed in order to protect consumers and vital wireless services.”

Based on the data gathered by Ferris Research, an all-time high of 1.1 billion spam text messages were received by consumers in 2007. The CTIA data, however, said this figure is still a much conservative estimate and that in fact, 28.8 billion unwanted text messages—dubbed in 2000 as “spasms”—were reported within the month of June 2007 alone.

The m-SPAM Act is a welcome development considering that in the 2003 CAN-SPAM Act, the rules enforced by FCC only banned the sending of email spam to cell phones. It turned out that  wireless spam is equally headache-inducing for users as it has been used for phishing attacks wherein unscrupulous individuals try to trick wireless users into disclosing personal information over the phone.

Aside from such dangers, another reason why mobile spam is especially irritating to users is because it clutters their inbox and they have to shoulder the per text message cost, which is sometimes at 20 cents.

“Spam e-mail is bad enough,” said Nelson. “Now, we are seeing a proliferation of unwanted text messages – and consumers are getting stuck paying.”

According to Secure Computing Magazine Australia, mobile hackers are taking advantage of inadequate mobile spam and fraud protection offered by mobile networks.

Messaging security vendor Cloudmark claimed that advancements in mobile technology such as the introduction of unlimited messaging plans, as well as the increase in open networks and mobile applications have made wireless spamming an attractive and lucrative option for spammers.

It has been found out that one of the biggest triggers of mobile spam is via number harvesting by websites offering free ringtone downloads. Users are made to provide their phone numbers before they can download the ringtone. The numbers gathered are used to send mass advertising messages to users. Once the spam starts pouring in, users are usually left with no other option but to change their cell phone numbers.

Another anti-spam strategy, albeit a very extreme and unpopular one among SMS buffs, is the option offered by phone providers to completely disable text messaging functions on a user’s account.  So far, this option has been useful only to individuals who have had no need for the SMS function.