The focus of our discussion with Dan is AIT (Artificially Inflated Traffic). Everyone mentions Elon Musk ranting about the 390 telcos stealing $60M from Twitter through traffic pumping. But that is so last year.
AIT is being used to destroy the routing tables enterprises (e.g. Google, Meta, Amazon) use for SMS; and because data in SMS is sent in the clear its about to become a massive source for fraud including account take over (ATO).
The technology to get into the SMS A2P ecosystem is commoditized to the point that any individual manager within an aggregator, or telco, or relative of, or even an enterprise can make big bucks. This situation reminds me of the international bypass fraud, popular a couple of decades ago. It’s just on steroids as it learned from the internet and is applied to the leaky bucket of the A2P SMS ecosystem where everything is sent in the clear. This is not the SS7 hack, this is a vulnerability created by all the unaccredited A2P SMS paths and providers.
Back to the interview. Dan Gill is the CEO and founder of Augnet. Check out their team, its impressive. Augnet addresses the lack of governance in SMS messaging using a vast network of real devices (both SDK in apps and SIM app). He faced this problem through the sale of Skype where he headed up carrier relations across voice and SMS. There simply was no certifications in the SMS supply chain, things like performance measurement were challenging, almost guess work, DLR (Delivery Receipts) can be faked. Hence its open to abuse by the industry itself and any bad actor with a little bit of knowledge.
The routing manipulation uses AIT to lower the performance of competitors’ routes through pumping traffic, so an enterprise like Amazon favors your routes. Spend money on AIT, but win more higher margin revenue. There’s a battle taking place over all the A2P SMS routes. Trust in the A2P SMS ecosystem is only one hop, your partner may connect with companies you do not trust. There’s no accreditation, and often conflicts of interest. There needs to be a source of Truth that is measurable and constantly updated.
It is impossible today for any aggregator to prove 100% of their traffic is white. They may claim 100%, but it only takes one person in any of the organizations that route traffic, or a bad actor that appears a solid aggregator for one country. And that leads to the critical issue of how to you monitor AIT traffic entering your network. These are the problems Augnet addresses, plus some really interesting capabilities around encryption, authentication, geofencing, SMS over IP and network awareness.
Trust in SMS is a critical issue, barriers to bad actor entry are low. AIT is going to enable fraud on a scale we have never experienced over SMS. When Dan shared how trust could be like a HLR look-up, “is this # a real device over a trusted route”. What shocks me is Augnet is coming up to 6 years old, and it is not broadly adopted. The industry needs to act now, else A2P SMS could lose significant credibility by the end of 2024.
We’ll be putting a deeper dive AIT analysis soon to help everyone get up to date on the latest, and drive a conversation around what the A2P SMS industry needs as well as enterprise customers should demand.