Different avenues to ‘control spoofing’ with FCC, state law

The term “spoofing” may be better known as a comedic term, but it also has a negative connotation pertaining to electronic transmissions.

In the context of network security, a spoofing attack occurs when person or program successfully masquerades as another by falsifying data, thereby obtaining an illegitimate advantage. It is also often used as an attempt to trick someone into giving away valuable personal or financial information.

Readily available technology allows callers to forge caller ID information and present false names and numbers. Specific gadgets are sold for this very purpose, and phone Apps also may be downloaded or purchased to “spoof” the point of origin.

Some intentions in fact may be harmless, but many times the procedure is used by telemarketers — or in the case that played out last week using an internal farragutpress phone number to attack Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett — to purposely and perhaps maliciously misrepresent information.

State Rep. Jimmy Matlock [R-District 21] put himself center-stage on the subject of “spoofing” in 2017 legislatively, while admitting his 2018 campaign to fill the soon to be vacant 2nd District U.S. Congressional seat used “robo calls” late last year.

But Matlock, a Farragut businessman, was quick to distance himself from any culpability in the “spoofing” robo call attack on Burchett, a Republican Primary Congressional seat opponent, with farragutpress spoofed Tuesday evening, Jan. 23.

“I was the sponsor of the House legislation that made spoofing a misdemeanor penalty, myself and the Lt. Gov. [Randy McNally] together ran the bill,” Matlock said of the legislation, which became law July 1, 2017, after being signed by Gov. Bill Haslam May 2. “… You cannot go in and misrepresent the facts, you cannot go in and slander, you cannot go in and threaten.”

Meanwhile, Matlock said he recorded a robo call campaign message, “a personal message … about 20 seconds long … to about 9,000 likely Republican voters” in Knox and the other six 2nd U.S. Congressional District counties.

“I think it was like a four-hour afternoon-type thing” one day between Christmas and New Year’s [Day] “to promote my campaign,” he added.

However, “I think after the experience that happened over the last few hours [Jan. 24], I won’t be involved in any more robo calls,” he said.

“I had never done one before.”

Under the Truth in Caller ID Act, Federal Communications Commission rules prohibit any person or entity from transmitting misleading or inaccurate caller ID information “with the intent to defraud, cause harm, or wrongly obtain anything of value.”

If individuals or companies are found guilty of illegal spoofing, violations can incur penalties of up to $10,000 for each violation.

Malicious spoofing may seem a hard crime to prove and ultimately prosecute.

But in August 2017, the FCC recommended an $82 million dollar fine against Best Insurance Contracts and its owner/operator Philip Roesel, for displaying inaccurate information when making calls to sell health insurance, which apparently specifically targeted vulnerable consumers such as the elderly and low-income.

[Read related spoofing stories and editorials beginning on page 1A and page 4A].