Maximising the Potential of Your Network, Part 3: Prepare the Best Defence

3 min read

Messaging is a growing business and, given the ubiquity of SMS, mobile operators are increasingly central to B2C communications. If you are an operator this is great news, since A2P SMS is a valuable revenue stream, but it raises the question of whether you are really getting the maximum potential revenue from all that traffic.

With more and more messages being sent, across multiple jurisdictions and passing through multiple hands, it can be difficult to know what your network is capable of. We’ve already discussed how to get some visibility of this, through critically evaluating your true potential and internal structure, as well as how market considerations play into this.

But we haven’t yet talked about how to start securing messaging and gaining the control necessary to extract the value your network generates.

Firewalls in abundance

Many MNOs are turning to SMS firewalls as a means to secure — and thereby monetise — their networks. According to Mobilesquared, over 80% of MNOs they surveyed had deployed an SMS firewall.

You might be one of them. But simply having a firewall doesn’t automatically guarantee it is doing its job to the fullest of its potential. Which is important if you are to achieve your full potential.

The need for rules

Thanks to various exploits like grey routes, not to mention the sheer complexity of messaging routing, when SMS traffic reaches the firewall there can be a lot of chaos. GMS believes role of a firewall should be to put this into some kind of order, and that means effective rules for organising all incoming traffic.

First, you need to determine what categories you need. This is pretty simple — traffic should be sorted into A2P, P2P, and P2A, and cross-categorised into national and international. You should also be sifting out spam.

Then you need to devise blocking rules for illegitimate traffic. This is trickier, as you need to be aware of the manipulations and bypass techniques used by fraudsters, which can vary from market to market. However it is important to have these rules since they tell your firewall what to look out for.

Knowing is half the battle

This is why it is so important to find experts, not just in your market but also markets worldwide — because they will know about common ways that people alter messages or metadata in order to avoid firewalls. Knowing tricks used in other markets also helps to anticipate and avoid the spread of those techniques to your network or market.

Understanding how threats evolve lets you and your messaging partners proactively look for workarounds and really tighten up security. So too can a rigorous testing regime.

Looking for trouble

An exhaustive testing regime will reveal network vulnerabilities, particularly at the start of a monetisation project, when few rigorous rules will be in place. You get an even better picture of evolving threats if you enact continuous testing, which can show you when traffic trends begin to change.

Dishonest players within the ecosystem are continually looking for ways to increase their margins, even at the expense of MNOs. To this end they will always be looking for ways around your firewall, whether that means manipulating sender IDs, exploiting under-protected P2P connections, or SIM farms.

Watching for fluctuations in traffic will alert you to these attempts, and allow you to shut them down before they can affect your revenues too badly.

Optimisation requires expertise

Firewalls are great. They allow MNOs to protect not just themselves, but also their subscribers Yet if you don’t take the time to really exploit and optimise your firewall’s capabilities you will never realise the full potential of your network.

Doing so often means incorporating the lessons learned from the previous articles in this series, to make sure your security infrastructure is working at its best. Make sure your whole company is pulling together — departments (and your C-level staff) should know the importance of the role each part of the company plays. While you’re doing that, don’t forget to look beyond your own network, and understand the dynamics of the local market. Then go further, and take lessons from elsewhere in the world of telecoms.

Maximising potential requires foresight, awareness, and expertise. These intangible assets are the real key to making the most out of the time, effort, and capital invested in monetising your network.

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