AIT: The Biggest Threat In SMS Fraud

October 17, 2023

The messaging ecosystem has recently witnessed a new phenomenon on the rise, one deceptive scheme, known as Artificially Inflated Traffic (AIT), that has surged unnoticed, raising alarms, and driving revenue away from companies. As if there weren’t enough issues, awareness of how these scams work, and taking the proper precautions are exactly what we will be discussing in this blog to help you in your fight against this ultimate menace! 

What is AIT?  

Artificially Inflated Traffic (AIT), also known as SMS Pumping, represents a novel form of SMS fraud, wherein perpetrators generate substantial volumes of fake or fraudulent text messages via applications or websites. This fraudulent activity commonly manifests in One-Time Password SMS (OTP SMS) scenarios, where fraudsters employ automated bots to fabricate fictitious accounts, subsequently triggering OTP SMS transmissions to numerous mobile numbers. Strikingly, the messages are not actually delivered to end users. 

Why this sudden rise? 

First and foremost, rapid technological advancements have led to the development of more sophisticated tools and methods, enabling fraudsters to exploit vulnerabilities. 

Plus, AIT presents a major potential for financial gain, not to mention that the escalating costs of application-to-person (A2P) SMS services have made the profit made from AIT scams increasingly attractive to cybercriminals. Even worse, some are choosing to use the profits from AIT schemes to pay for legitimate SMS traffic.  

On the other hand, AIT’s specificity lies in its ability to remain undetected, stemming from its exclusion from conventional SMS agreements and regulations. This unique characteristic allows it to slip past Mobile Network Operator (MNO) firewalls, leveraging the fact that One-Time Passwords (OTPs) are not classified as spam.  

The ultimate temptation 

The allure of AIT’s benefits could potentially tempt any party involved. Starting with brands, they might be lured into using AIT to present a customer base growth. Others could as well misuse AIT to inflate OTP numbers, leading to increased revenue, either directly or indirectly. Similarly, MNOs might be inclined to exploit AIT to bolster OTP figures, thereby potentially enhancing their revenue. 

The adverse effects of AIT 

The looming menace of Artificial Traffic Generation stands as the paramount threat to the A2P industry. Its ripple effects encompass both the customer experience and enterprises, eroding trust in A2P and prompting a quest for alternative channels within CPaaS environments to reduce their inflated spend on SMS messaging. Plus, if consumers lose trust in the security of text messaging, they will be less likely to use it as a communication channel, which could directly impact the MNO’s overall revenue. In other words, with brands shifting to other authentication methods, Mobile operators also risk losing A2P SMS revenue. Furthermore, organizations risk tarnishing their reputation as they may be perceived as non-compliant and untrustworthy. 

How to mitigate AIT? 

With the advent of this troubling phenomenon, a lot is at stake. But the good news is that there are strategies to mitigate its effects. To counter the threat posed by artificial traffic inflation, a robust response from telcos, communication providers, and businesses is crucial. This requires the adoption of a comprehensive fraud prevention strategy encompassing vigilant monitoring of potentially suspicious activity, stringent authentication protocols, and advanced analytics to swiftly identify deviations in traffic patterns. By collectively embracing these measures, we can effectively mitigate the risk of AIT and safeguard the integrity of our communication channels. On the other hand, there are some actual solutions that can help reduce the risk.

Based on best practices, the implementation of a firewall can be the answer to the problem; in addition to being able to detect and block messages containing malicious content, such as spam or phishing links, a good firewall can serve as a shield, safeguarding businesses from malicious actors aiming to artificially inflate their traffic statistics. A Vigilant tracking of the conversion rates of one-time passwords (OTPs) can also be a crucial element in fortifying any system reliant on OTPs for authentication. To ensure the effective utilization of OTPs, consistent monitoring of conversion rates is paramount, coupled with the establishment of alerts triggered when utilization breaches a determined limit.  

Better late than sorry! 

As the communication industry continues to expand, it becomes imperative to address this challenge promptly. In the meantime, it’s crucial to remain vigilant and proactive by staying informed about the evolving threat landscape, implementing robust security measures, and collaborating with industry experts to safeguard against this growing menace