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What is the purpose of the joint committee formed by TRAI with RBI and SEBI officials?

TRAI is forming the joint committee to tackle cyber fraud and phishing amid rising number of such cases. What are the proposed steps?

A joint committee has been formed by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to look at the issue of phishing and cyber frauds, according to a report in the Economic Times (ET). It added that the telecom regulator has included officials from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI).

Why it matters: The problem of phishing, perpetuated via unsolicited calls, has only compounded in recent years with the proliferation of new technologies, especially UPI. It has not helped that people have started to bank digitally in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • It is critical to address this issue given that there are very few remedies available to victims of phishing who can end up losing their hard-earned savings in such frauds.
  • The report is also notable because it goes to show that TRAI’s efforts to rein in unsolicited calls have not been effective owing to which it has to come up with new measures. The failure of TRAI’s efforts is reflected in Truecaller ranking India as one of the worst-affected countries across the world in 2021.
  • The committee could prove to be useful as the expertise of RBI and SEBI officials can help to put a robust mechanism in place which will help restrain frauds like spam and phishing.

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What is TRAI exploring: The committee is looking at addressing the issue of unsolicited commercial communication (UCC) through the process of whitelisting, ET explained.

  • The telecom regulator is looking to get entities such as banks and other financial institutions to whitelist their websites or links, TRAI’s secretary V. Raghunandan informed the business daily. A phishing scam usually involves a URL resembling the official site with a few changes.
  • The report revealed that TRAI has directed telecom operators to take measures such as a UCC detection system to straighten out the issue.
  • Raghunandan added that the regulator will come out with a consultation paper if there are changes required in the existing framework.

What is whitelisting: It is a feature in which a user can only receive calls from numbers which have been allowed in advance. The report did not reveal how the measure will be implemented but it is likely that TRAI will identify numbers and URLs of legitimate banks and financial institutions which will then be provided to telecom operators.

  • The companies will be allowed to reach out to users only via these numbers and everything else will be blocked by telecom operators.
  • It remains to be seen how the feature will take shape but the report said that it is going to take six to twelve months before they are put in place.

TRAI’s past measures to curb spam: The telecom watchdog tried to address the problem of unsolicited calls with a do-not-disturb (DND) registry. However, it has been found that DND registration does not yield any tangible results.

  • Betting on Blockchain: The telecom watchdog had released a draft regulation outlining a plan to combat SMS and call spam using blockchain technology. It saw telecom companies and TRAI working together to build an encrypted and distributed database that will record user consent to be included in SMS or call send-out lists.
  • Floating KYC: It was reported earlier this year that the regulator is looking to come up with a framework that will flash a caller’s name on the phone screen as per their KYC (Know Your Customer) records when a call is made by someone. The body has not come up with a framework yet.

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I cover several beats such as Crypto, Telecom, and OTT at MediaNama. I can be found loitering at my local theatre when I am off work consuming movies by the dozen.

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.



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