The government has directed the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to develop new rules mandating the use of two-factor authentication to help prevent fraudulent mobile phone number porting.
Phone numbers are commonly used for 2FA by banks and online services. Scammers have previously use lax pre-porting verification processes to move an individual’s number from one telco to another; a scammer can then use the number for fraudulent bank transfers, for example.
Communications and cyber safety minister Paul Fletcher announced the new anti-fraud measure today. The government said that although Telstra, Optus and Vodafone have strengthened pre-port verification processes, telcos representing more than 1 million mobile services are yet to implement stronger safeguards.
“The government expects all telcos to pull their weight,” Fletcher said. “I want Australians to be confident that every telco has put in place strong verification processes to stop fraudulent mobile number porting and the devastating consequences it can have for victims.”
The initiative is a product of the ACMA’s Scam Technology Project, established in March.
“Mobile number fraud can have devastating effects as scammers can gain access to bank accounts, email, social media and more,” said ACMA authority member Fiona Cameron.
“Identity theft has long-term ramifications as victims struggle to regain control over personal and financial information often over years.”
Industry group Communications Alliance has developed new measures to safeguard consumers from fraudulent number porting, the ACMA said.
“I congratulate Communications Alliance and its members for developing these stricter security measures, but more is required,” Cameron said. “We know that some telcos, mainly smaller resellers, are still not providing satisfactory protection to consumers.”
“We welcome the minister’s direction to lift these obligations into an enforceable industry standard that will apply to all providers,” she added. “This work will be a priority for the ACMA.”