University of Warwick research team to seek an end to spam calls

SOURCE: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images/AFP
There are now mobile apps that allow scammers to use fake numbers to call their victims.

By U2B Staff 

Read all stories

Researchers at the University of Warwick have received a £1.1m government grant from the EPSRC to investigate new solutions for caller ID spoofing in collaboration with telecommunication industry giants trueCall, Huawei, and RedTone among others. 

With the advancement of Voice over IP (VoIP) software, the telecommunication industry has become the prime ground for scammers. 

ID spoofing allows a caller to use a fraudulent number from anywhere in the world to make unsuspecting victims think the call is coming from a trusted source such as a governmental body or a bank. 


According to Ofcom, the regulatory for UK’s communications, consumers in the UK are estimated to receive five billion of these scam calls each year. Scammers can easily avoid being traced back by using this modus operandi.

Unfortunately, as the telecommunications networks evolve to become far more complex, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for the telecommunication industry to find a viable solution to authenticate caller IDs. 

Existing solutions provided by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the US involves a top-down approach where a globally trusted authority will have the power to authenticate caller IDs. 

This approach, dubbed the STIR/SHAKEN proposal, will also entail changes to the entire telecommunication infrastructure which could be very costly and time-consuming to initiate. 

Caller ID spoofing
The current solution that exists will entail a costly change in the current infrastructure. Source: Aris Messinis/Pool/AFP.

The main issue with this proposal is that there needs to be a global consensus on which authoritative body should be trusted with the duty of being the gatekeeper of telecommunications, something that may not be wholly agreed-upon in certain countries. 

Therefore, as a more feasible alternative, the research team at the University of Warwick will aim to investigate new ways of tackling this issue using a bottom-up approach. 

It is hoped that this new approach will not involve introducing any globally trusted authority or changing the telecommunication infrastructure that exists today. 

This research initiative will be led by principal investigator from the University of Warwick’s Department of Computer Science Professor Feng Hao. 

“Caller ID spoofing is a real problem that has been affecting billions of telephone and mobile phone users. We have a track record of building secure systems without involving any trusted third parties, for example, in key agreement, e-voting, and e-auction,” said Feng Hao. 

“Here we aim to do the same for telecommunication systems. Our preliminary research has shown this is possible, but further work is needed to confirm the feasibility. We are thrilled by the EPSRC funding for supporting us in this investigation. I am pleased to be able to collaborate with Dr. Adrian von Mühlenen from the Psychology Department on this inter-disciplinary project. The problem we want to tackle is more than a technical challenge; understanding human factors will prove crucial as well.”


“We aim to develop a system that shows the trust level of the displayed caller ID from an incoming call. The success of this project will depend on technical as well as human factors, such as usability, acceptance, and trust,” added Dr Adrian von Mühlenen from the Department of Psychology. 

“I will bring to the project my expertise in user experience and experimental research more widely. Those will be crucial for designing a user-centred phone interface that is both user-friendly and can be trusted.”