Spark to introduce barriers to help stamp out objectionable material, cyber risks and scams

Internet service provider and telecommunications giant Spark is introducing multiple barriers to help stamp out objectionable material, cyber risks and scams.

They include a new automated text message, scam firewall and two filters to reduce exposure to malware, phishing and child sexual abuse material.

In April, Spark is set to become the first internet service provider in New Zealand to join the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), meaning it will be able to block more child sex abuse material on the foundation’s URL list.

Our current systems in Aotearoa, under the Department of Internal Affairs voluntary scheme, block 412 URLs while the IWF block up to 30,000 a day.

Spark sustainability director Leela Ashford said the provider wants to help play a part in making the internet a safer place for its customers.

“The dissemination of child sexual abuse material is a growing issue in Aotearoa and globally. We want to ensure we do whatever we can to protect our customers from this illegal content, and extending our blocking activity through our new membership of the Internet Watch Foundation is one of the ways we can further strengthen protections on our network,” Ashford said.

The group Makes Sense, created by sex therapist Jo Robertson, and educator Holly Brooker, has recently received 10,000 signatures on its petition calling for tougher and wider restriction on illegal sexual content online.

Brooker praised Spark, saying it was leading the way in stopping child sexual abuse material from being viewed.

“We really hope that it encourages other internet providers to take action. We’ve had a lot of positive conversations but we’d really hope that this motivates and pushes them to adopting the IWF list for themselves.”

Spark has shown initiative by taking the work on itself after Makes Sense introduced it to the IWF, Brooker said.

“From the beginning we’ve seen a really positive desire to make change in the space to ensure that their customers are safe. Spark have been really competent and open to putting better measures in place and its been really refreshing to engage with them in that way.”

Spark has also formally endorsed WeProtect Global Alliance’s ’11 Voluntary Principles to Counter Online Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse’ which will help the digital industry tackle online child exploitation.

Other features

Some of the other new features include a firewall, which is coming out next month. It can automatically detect known fraudulent SMS content before it reaches the receiver.

“The firewall, which is informed by a global database of confirmed scam content, is expected to significantly reduce the amount of scam texts being received by Spark customers by detecting URLs, phrases, and ‘calls to action’ that are known to be used in SMS scam campaigns, and blocking them, preventing them being received by the customer.

“While this has resulted in a significant reduction in scam SMS sent from our own network, our new filter improves our ability to detect and block this activity coming through to our customers from other mobile networks as well,” Ashford said.

Spark has also been working the with GCSB National Cyber Security Centre to implement the Malware Free Networks service into its network to help reduce accidentally downloading malicious malware onto a customers device.

It was warning its customers to remain vigilant online against potential scammers.

“We are really pleased to be able to add these extra layers of protection, but we also remind our customers that fraudsters are always evolving their tactics,” Ashford said.

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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