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Telecoms call for AI help in fraud fight

By Ma Si | China Daily | Updated: 2018-10-23 10:30
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A visitor learns how China Mobile uses technologies to fight against internet fraud. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Programs can spot crimes as they happen, before citizens are duped

Chinese telecom companies are ratcheting up resources to fight against telecom frauds, by leveraging cutting-edge technologies and strengthening cooperation with internet companies, public security bureaus, as well as banks.

The intensified push comes as new types of fraud cases emerge with instant-messaging apps and illegal telecom technology increasingly being used to swindle citizens. In 2017, there were more than 596,000 cases of telecom and internet fraud in China, causing economic losses of 13.1 billion yuan ($1.9 billion), according to data from the Ministry of Public Security.

China United Network Communications Group Co Ltd, the country's second-largest telecom carrier by subscribers, for instance, is stepping up its push to crack down on telecom fraud by using big data and artificial intelligence technologies.

The Beijing-based company partnered with internet behemoth Tencent Holdings Ltd earlier this year to build a big data laboratory to beef up information security. The two sides will work together to target financial fraud, and intercept illegal and troubling information by investing resources in cross-platform data aggregation, data mining capabilities, and other network security technologies.

China Mobile Communications Corp, the world's largest mobile carrier with 913 million subscribers, is also moving in a similar direction to help solve rising telecom challenges. Its Zhejiang provincial branch, for instance, has developed a big data anti-fraud system, called Tiandun, or Sky Shield in English.

The system is equipped with machine learning technologies. Based on details of a large number of fraud cases provided by police departments, Sky Shield can recognize fraudulent communication behavior, differentiate it from normal calls and intercept spam calls and texts.

"The system is also capable of identifying what types of users are more vulnerable to telecom spam and warn these users via text messages. Moreover, when it thinks these users are likely to be experiencing fraud, the system will send their phone information to police, who will act swiftly to contact them," said Zhang Zhao, an information security expert at the Zhejiang provincial branch of China Mobile.

Since Sky Shield was put into use in August, the accuracy rate of potential victim information sent to police stations is 80 percent, China Mobile said.

These State-owned companies' moves to curb telecom fraud is part of China's broader national campaign to target nuisance calls and ensure cybersecurity.

In July, 13 top-level authorities, including the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, the Ministry of Public Security and the Supreme People's Court, jointly rolled out an action plan to ensure people receive significantly fewer prank calls by consolidating law enforcement and technology.

Local telecom administrators are required to step up management of voice communication services provided by telecom and internet companies, and heighten oversight of call centers.

Luo Yongci, a police officer at the Hangzhou public security bureau in Zhejiang province, said because of the greater prevalence of smartphones in China, the rate of telecom fraud is higher in the world's largest handset market than elsewhere.

"But we have also developed a more mature system by partnering with telecom carriers, banks and other relevant parties to crack down on such crime. Cross-party collaboration is one of the keys to prevent such cases from happening," Luo said.

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