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Nov 16, 2023
6 minutes read

A2P Messaging Fraud and Prevention for Businesses

Safeguarding company data against security threats should be on the top of the priorities list for every modern company. Especially since A2P, or application-to-person messaging fraud is on the rise. Read all about the different types of A2P fraud and what steps you can take to avoid being the next victim.

What Is A2P Messaging?

A2P, or application-to-person messaging, is any kind of traffic where a person receives messages from an application. Sounds vague, but trust me, it's not! Examples of A2P messaging are marketing messages, appointment reminders, notifications, chatbots, and one time passwords (OTPs). Does your business use any of these features? Then you're A2P messaging with your customers! A2P messaging can happen on a large variety of (messaging and voice) channels, and in many different ways. Which also makes it a vulnerable target for fraud.

What Is A2P Messaging Fraud?

With every new technological advancement, platform, and process, there will be criminals trying to exploit it. A2P messaging fraud often happens via grey routes - messaging traffic routes that enter a telecommunications network that is not sanctioned by an MNO (mobile network operator) - to bypass legitimate messaging channels. These grey routes are the middle ground between white routes, where both source and recipient are sanctioned, and black routes, where both the source and the recipients are illegal.

Both you as a business, as your customers, can be targets for A2P messaging fraud. It is key that both your employees and your customers (consumers) know how to recognize A2P messaging fraud - and act accordingly.

To better understand the threats for your business and employees, let's take a look at the most common cases of fraud in A2P messaging, and what measures can be taken to minimize the threat.

Common A2P Messaging Fraud Types

Account Compromise

A compromised account is an account that is accessed by unauthorized users with login details. Basically, a fraudster either got access to login credentials, or was able to 'crack' them to gain access to (one of) your business accounts. They do this to acquire account information, financial information, personal data, or all other kinds of info that should be confidential. If you're very unlucky, these hackers will even change login credentials, essentially locking you out of your own accounts. This is, of course, a huge privacy breach, and the consequences can be very unpleasant. Fraudsters can wreak havoc with a compromised account.

Token Compromise

Modern applications and software often use JSON Web Tokens (JWTs) to manage user sessions and authentication - and this token can be compromised by hackers. Web development tokens are a string of numbers or letters that represent a session id. It's used to help identify and remember users. JWT however, are tokens that also contain user data. That also means that if your JSON Web Token gets stolen, it's a big problem. Stolen or compromised JSON Web Tokens will give the hackers full access to the account, in the same wat they would if they had instead compromised the account.

SMS Pumping or Inflated Traffic

In SMS pumping, traffic pumping, or Artificially Inflated Traffic (AIT), fraudsters exploit automated log-in systems to trigger sharp spikes in traffic toward numbers they own or to a range of numbers controlled by a specific mobile network operator (MNO) with whom they conspire. The criminals reap a share of the revenue generated in this way, but the CM.com account holder gets to foot the bill.

Voice Toll Fraud

With toll fraud, criminals target phone verification systems to generate a high volume of voice calls to premium rate numbers, which charge callers a price per call or per minute. If such calls are fraudulently generated from your website(s) the charges fall on you and your business

How to Prevent A2P Messaging Fraud?

Being targeted, or worse, being a victim of fraud is incredibly unpleasant for everybody involved, and it can really damage (the name of) a business. But don't despair just yet - you can take measures to minimize the threats.

Educate Employees

You can set up a long list of security measures, but it'll be in vain when your employees are hesitant to adopt these (extra) security steps. Educate your employees on your security policy and provide guidelines on how to identify the above A2P threats. Let them know that your business would never send out certain messages (like messages requesting personal data), and tell them where to report any suspicious messages they get.

When employees see the value of data protection - and when they know what to look out for- they'll become more alert and willing to take those extra (security) steps.

Implement 2FA (Two-Factor Authentication)

Two-factor authentication (2FA) is a common type of MFA (Multi-Factor Authentication) that requires two factors of identification to verify the user’s identity. The factors of identification are:

  • Something a user knows, like a PIN or an answer to a secret question

  • Something a user possesses, like a one time password (OTP) delivered via SMS text message

  • Something a user is, which may include fingerprints and facial recognition

2FA serves use cases spread over various different industries and a multitude of different (messaging) channels, making it an effective measure against messaging fraud.

Implementing 2FA will add an extra layer of security for both your employees and your customers, decreasing the likelihood of unauthorized access compared with an account that is protected solely with a username and password.

Use a Trusted Messaging Provider

Reputable messaging providers (like CM.com) will have fraud prevention measures implemented within their software. This will ensure safety for your business A2P messaging endeavors.

Monitor Traffic

Monitoring messaging traffic will help you identify and address any unusual patterns, such as traffic spikes and unusual message contents. Reputable Business Service Providers (BSPs) such as CM.com will also offer built-in alerts for unusual traffic volumes.

Use Rate Limiting

You can also employ rate limiting, which is a strategy to limit network traffic. It will implement a cap on how often someone can repeat a certain action within a timeframe - for example, trying to log in to an account. It will help stop malicious bot activity from trying to get access.

Add reCAPTCHA

reCAPTCHA (owned by Google) enables you to distinguish between human and automated access to websites. It comes in many different variations, from finding shapes in a picture and matching images to deciphering hard to read text. reCAPTCHA will hinder the hackers attempts to access your website or accounts via automated programs.

A2P Messaging via CM.com

We offer (A2P) business messaging on multiple channels via our Communications Platform, or via our integrated Mobile Service Cloud and Mobile Marketing Cloud software. We also offer an OTP (one-time-password) solution to help you set up your own 2FA data protection measures. Want to know what measures we take to protect your data from (online) threats? Visit our trust center.

We hope this blog has given you an idea about the risks in A2P Messaging, and what you can do to mitigate them. If you have any questions, please contact one of our experts. We're happy to help.

Are You Ready to Set-up and Protect Your A2P Messaging Strategy?

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Christel Brouwers
Copywriter at CM.com. Passionate about language and getting CM.com’s message out there. Shares content about CPaaS, Payments and more.

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