Before we dig into the technical details of what STIR/SHAKEN is, let’s first talk about why we need it. There are literally BILLIONS of spam calls in the U.S. each year. BILLIONS. Many of those spam calls involve caller ID spoofing, where the caller displays a caller ID (or name) that makes the called party think the call is legitimate.
You get these types of calls constantly. One innocuous way spammers use caller ID spoofing is to make the caller ID appear to be from a local number (in the same area code and exchange as your number). Consumers tend to answer these calls thinking the caller must be from the neighborhood or a local business.
A more nefarious way spammers use caller ID spoofing is to make the call appear to be from a governmental agency or some other important organization that makes you answer the call and also makes you think the call is credible. Get any IRS calls lately? They were most likely spoofed caller ID calls. (these types of calls may be prevented through use of do not originate lists)
Enter STIR/SHAKEN – a technological effort to combat and prevent these spoofed caller IDs and reduce phone spam.
What is STIR/SHAKEN?
STIR/SHAKEN are actually a number of telephony standards (put together by a number of working groups). If you are technically inclined, here are links to several of the documents that make up STIR/SHAKEN: RFC 8224 (related to STIR) and the SHAKEN framework. Other documents continue to be updated to flesh out aspects of STIR/SHAKEN (including documents describing features that allow the use of branded caller ID calls).
STIR/SHAKEN are acronyms for the Secure Telephone Identity Revisited (STIR) and Signature-based Handling of Asserted Information Using toKENs (SHAKEN) standards.
In general, the STIR/SHAKEN standards set out rules that ensure that calls traveling through interconnected phone networks would have their caller ID “signed” as legitimate by originating carriers and validated by other carriers before reaching consumers.
With STIR/SHAKEN, if you get a call with a caller ID showing “IRS.gov”, you should be confident that the caller is from the IRS. (you still may not want to answer the call!)
STIR/SHAKEN digitally validates the handoff of phone calls passing through the complex web of networks, allowing the phone company of the consumer receiving the call to verify that a call is in fact from the number displayed on Caller ID.
How will STIR/SHAKEN reduce robocalls?
While STIR/SHAKEN will not fully eliminate robocalls, they should reduce them.
Robocallers bank on getting unsuspecting consumers to answer calls. STIR/SHAKEN will remove (or reduce) the ability for spammers to spoof caller IDs. This will reduce the number of calls that will be answered by consumers.
Further, at some point, calls that are not signed or verified using STIR/SHAKEN will be blocked by carriers or networks.
When will STIR/SHAKEN be implemented?
STIR/SHAKEN is in the process of being implemented. In fact, the FCC required that certain telecom service providers implemented STIR/SHAKEN in the Internet Protocol (IP) portions of their networks almost a year ago (by June 30, 2021). While some service providers were able to postpone the date by which they needed to comply, most providers have complied.
As a result, most tier 1 telecom carriers have implemented STIR/SHAKEN and support verified calls.
The FCC continues to crack down on spam callers and is implementing other initiatives to reduce spam. For example, the FCC implemented Congressional direction from the Pallone-Thune Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence Act (TRACED Act) and adopted more rules to ensure that even those providers unable to implement STIR/SHAKEN right away are still taking steps to protect their customers from illegal robocalls.
Currently, STIR/SHAKEN framework is only operational on IP networks. As a result, other rules have been put into place that require providers using older forms of network technology to either upgrade their networks to IP or actively work to develop a caller ID authentication solution that is operational on non-IP networks.
How does STIR/SHAKEN affect call centers?
If you operate a call center and if you want to increase your outbound contact rates, you will want to work with telco providers that have implemented STIR/SHAKEN so that you can verify each of the phone numbers you use for outbound dialing.
Further, verification may allow you to use branded caller ID to further improve your contact rates. If you don't use good phone number hygiene by complying with STIR/SHAKEN and taking other steps to protect your caller ID reputation, you will end up with terrible answer rates.
Speak with your telco team about this now – improved contact rates and customer piece of mind are worth it.