Info@NationalCyberSecurity
Info@NationalCyberSecurity

Opinion | Hong Kong hashtag fight against scams needs support | #cybercrime | #infosec


Hashtags have a new job, fighting phishing in Hong Kong. The prefix “#”, already familiar on social media for the cross-referencing of content, will soon help verify the identity of mobile service providers when they send text messages to customers.

Announced by the Office of the Communications Authority, the system creates a way to block potential scam text messages from unregistered senders.

The latest positive step to fight cybercrime is to be welcomed, but it only stands a chance if met with wider public vigilance. Under the “SMS Sender Registration Scheme”, dedicated sender IDs will be available from Thursday for use by 23 network providers including SmarTone, 3HK and 1010.

More than 100 other service providers have been invited to join the system, and banks are also being asked to take part.

Sidney Tsan Siu-yan, the authority’s assistant director, said he hoped the hashtag verification scheme would help to intercept messages typically sent en masse by scammers. Photo: Shutterstock

Sidney Tsan Siu-yan, the authority’s assistant director, said he hoped the scheme would help to intercept messages typically sent en masse by scammers. It follows a move earlier this year to send out special voice or text messages alerting users to incoming overseas calls that carried the city’s “+852” dialling code.

The new hashtag verification tool will require concurrent efforts to raise public awareness about the need to verify suspicious messages. The scheme is also of no help intercepting messages sent through WhatsApp and other platforms operating outside the control of the authority.

Scammers, of course, are only expected to keep adapting to new technology as long as there are still people who fall for their tricks. In the first 10 months of this year, police recorded a 52.1 per cent surge in all types of scams compared with the same period in 2022.

Money lost to the 29,650 rackets recorded amounted to HK$4.99 billion (US$638.6 million).

Text messages by 23 Hong Kong mobile service providers to carry ‘#’ prefix

Phone deception also continues to rise, with 2,831 cases recorded in 2022, a nearly 150 per cent surge from the previous year, costing victims HK$1 billion.

Scammers will keep pursuing such payoffs until public awareness and new tools ensure it is no longer worth the trouble. The latest scheme to stop at least one form of phishing is an important step that is worthy of public attention and support.



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