The toll-free way to bring in more customers - GeekWire

The toll-free way to bring in more customers - GeekWire


The toll-free way to bring in more customers - GeekWire

Posted: 31 May 2019 10:18 AM PDT

Toll-free phone numbers used to be exclusive to large well-established corporations. To this day to the public they look like the most prestigious way to contact a business. Toll-free numbers promote customer care and significantly enhance company reputation. Now these numbers in the US and Canada are available free of charge for even the smallest companies to connect.

Businesses enjoy receiving calls inquiring about their product or service. Each call represents a potential new customer. Hopefully, the company representative has the skills to convert the inquiry into a purchase. Even if the sale does not go through this time, the company is pleased that the call arrives because it shows people know about them. Therefore, a firm welcomes any steps that encourage such callers. This fact goes a long way to explain the growing popularity of toll-free numbers.

A time saver becomes a sought-after sales booster

In the mid-1960s AT&T introduced toll-free (800) numbers to the USA. They thought these would help ease heavy work pressures on their operators. It seems that they did not initially envisage their businesses benefits. Admittedly, it also took a while for companies to realize how a free calling option would encourage customers to contact them. Over the following twenty years the AT&T monopoly made this free service relatively costly. After the end of their monopoly in 1984, competition reduced charges. Subsequent years saw the use of toll-free numbers increase rapidly.

Key Business Advantages of toll-free phone numbers

Toll-free numbers are now so widely used that people expect a well-established company to offer them this option. Each individual customer gets the message that this business wants to hear from me because they made this extra effort to provide such an easy, no-cost way to be in contact.

The equation between toll-free number availability and a higher number of callers and sales is clearly proven. The presence of a free number on marketing literature enhances the company's image in the public eye; it conveys the impression that this must be a prestigious and highly reputable firm. For small firms in their "startup" phase this can be of great benefit since customers assume a firm with a toll-free number must have been in business for some time.

Toll-free numbers also help improve market analysis. For example, a firm that uses a number of free numbers can monitor the number of calls from each number. This enables them to accurately analyze which advertising channels are most effective.

The benefits of American and Canadian toll-free numbers now extend far beyond these countries' boundaries. Communications improvements have opened up international commerce to even the smallest of companies. In this global trading environment, toll-free numbers play their part in attracting foreign custom. Companies who do not offer this free call service often find themselves at a competitive disadvantage.

The Most Economical and Efficient Toll-Free Service

The facts that cloud PBX (or VoIP phone systems) cut telecom installation and maintenance cost and bring down international call rates have become well-known. It is also worth noting the positive impact these internet phone systems are having in the toll-free number market.

When landline phone systems dominated the scene, smaller firms found it too costly to acquire and maintain toll-free numbers. VoIP makes this useful telecom service available to even the smallest business operating on a shoestring budget. It is also much more convenient to be able to receive business calls on a smartphone, PC, or any other device with a reasonable internet connection. No excuses anymore for missing that important customer call and giving them a reason to turn to your competitor.

Zadarma now offers companies in the USA and Canada toll-free numbers with no connection charge and monthly fees. For further details about this opportunity to increase customer interest in your business and raise your firm's prestige, please visit zadarma.com

About Zadarma:

Zadarma project is an international company, providing telecommunication services since 2006. Our professional expertise, sophisticated infrastructure and long-term experience lie in the heart of our premium cloud communication solutions. Today our service embraces a large number of active users in 160 countries, collaboration with the world largest VoIP providers, 4 geographically dispersed data centers, a world-wide range of virtual phone numbers and 24/7 customer support team.

How Hackers Broke WhatsApp With Just a Phone Call - WIRED

Posted: 14 May 2019 09:05 AM PDT

You've heard the advice a million times. Don't click links in suspicious emails or texts. Don't download shady apps. But a new Financial Times report alleges that the notorious Israeli spy firm NSO Group developed a WhatsApp exploit that could inject malware onto targeted phones—and steal data from them—simply by calling them. The targets didn't need to pick up to be infected, and the calls often left no trace on the phone's log. But how would a hack like that even work in the first place?

WhatsApp, which offers encrypted messaging by default to its 1.5 billion users worldwide, discovered the vulnerability in early May and released a patch for it on Monday. The Facebook-owned company told the FT that it contacted a number of human rights groups about the issue and that exploitation of this vulnerability bears "all the hallmarks of a private company known to work with governments to deliver spyware." In a statement, NSO Group denied any involvement in selecting or targeting victims but not its role in the creation of the hack itself.

"This does indeed sound like a freak incident."

Bjoern Rupp, CryptoPhone

So-called zero-day bugs, in which attackers find a vulnerability before the company can patch it, happen on every platform. It's part and parcel of software development; the trick is to close those security gaps as quickly as possible. Still, a hack that requires nothing but an incoming phone call seems uniquely challenging—if not impossible—to defend against.

WhatsApp wouldn't elaborate to WIRED about how it discovered the bug or give specifics on how it works, but the company says it is doing infrastructure upgrades in addition to pushing a patch to ensure that customers can't be targeted with other phone-call bugs.

"Remote-exploitable bugs can exist in any application that receives data from untrusted sources," says Karsten Nohl, chief scientist at the German firm Security Research Labs. That includes WhatsApp calls, which use the voice-over-internet protocol to connect users. VoIP applications have to acknowledge incoming calls and notify you about them, even if you don't pick up. "The more complex the data parsing, the more room for error," Nohl says. "In the case of WhatsApp, the protocol for establishing a connection is rather complex, so there is definitely room for exploitable bugs that can be triggered without the other end picking up the call."

VoIP calling services have been around for so long that you'd think any kinks in the basic call connection protocols would be worked out by now. But in practice, every service's implementation is a little bit different. Nohl points out that things get even trickier when you are offering end-to-end encrypted calling, as WhatsApp famously does. While WhatsApp bases its end-to-end encryption on the Signal Protocol, its VoIP calling functionally likely also includes other proprietary code as well. Signal says that its service is not vulnerable to this calling attack.

According to Facebook's security advisory, the WhatsApp vulnerability stemmed from an extremely common type of bug known as a buffer overflow. Apps have a sort of holding pen, called a buffer, to stash extra data. A popular class of attacks strategically overburdens that buffer so the data "overflows" into other parts of the memory. This can cause crashes or, in some cases, give attackers a foothold to gain more and more control. That's what happened with WhatsApp. The hack exploits the fact that in a VoIP call the system has to be primed for a range of possible inputs from the user: pick up, decline the call, and so on.

"This does indeed sound like a freak incident, but at the heart of it seems to be a buffer overflow problem that is unfortunately not too uncommon these days," says Bjoern Rupp, CEO of the German secure communication firm CryptoPhone. "Security never was WhatsApp's primary design objective, which means WhatsApp has to rely on complex VoIP stacks that are known for having vulnerabilities."

The WhatsApp bug was being exploited to target only a small number of high-profile activists and political dissidents, so most people won't have been affected by any of this in practice. But you should still download the patch on your Android and iOS devices.

"Companies like NSO Group try to keep a little stockpile of things that can be used to get onto devices," says John Scott-Railton, a senior researcher at the University of Toronto's Citizen Lab. "This incident makes it abundantly clear that anyone with a phone is impacted by the kind of vulnerabilities that customers of these companies are slinging around. There's a reality here for all of us."


More Great WIRED Stories

Scammers manipulate caller ID. Here are the best ways to block robocalls. - AOL

Posted: 31 May 2019 03:13 PM PDT

Here's one thing we can all agree on: Robocalls are annoying and intrusive, and we want them to stop!

Despite years of congressional hearings, prodding from the Federal Communications Commission and assurances from the telecommunications industry that it's working on solutions, our phones keep ringing and ringing and ringing.

According to YouMail, which makes a robocall blocking app for mobile devices:

  • Americans were bombarded with an estimated 48 billion robocalls last year, an increase of 57 percent from 2017. Thirty-seven percent were classified as scams.
  • Between January and April of this year, more than 20 billion robocalls have been made — about half of them were scam-related.

"We are where email was 15 years ago, where half of all the messages that came in were spam and your inbox was useless," said Alex Quilici, YouMail's CEO.

To deal with customer backlash, the major wireless carriers are using new call-filter technology. They also rolled out apps to screen and block robocalls. Despite these well-intentioned efforts, the problem continues to grow because robocalls are such a cheap and easy way for criminals to target massive numbers of potential victims.

The average American now gets 150 or more robocalls each year, based on YouMail's data.

Some robocalls are legitimate and important, such as a reminder about a doctor's appointment or an alert about a flight delay. But to deal with the flood of bogus calls, a lot of us (myself included) won't answer if we don't recognize the number displayed on the caller ID.

Robocall scammers need you to answer; they can't steal your money or personal information if they can't talk to you. So, they've developed a devious trick: They manipulate the number that appears on caller ID to make it look like it's coming from your area code or local prefix – or both.

It's called "neighborhood spoofing" and according to a new report from the AARP Fraud Watch Network, it works. The survey found that most people still use caller ID to determine whether they take a call:

  • Only 18 percent said they would take a call from a toll-free number.
  • More than half (59 percent) said they are more likely to answer a call from a local area code or an area code where family or friends live (44 percent).
  • More than a third (36 percent) are more likely to answer a call with an area code and prefix that matches their own.

"It's so easy to spoof the number and pretend to be somebody you're not, that caller ID is not a reliable means of finding out who's calling anymore," said Doug Shadel, AARP fraud prevention expert and author of the report. "The vast majority of scam-related robocalls now have spoofed numbers that display the local area code, even when they're placed somewhere else in the U.S. or even outside the country."

Aaron Foss, who created the Nomorobo robocall blocking service, says 20 percent of all robocalls are now neighborhood spoofed, and he expects that percentage to go higher because the deception works.

Robocall messages are designed to get you to act quickly, without thinking. That's why so many of them use fear tactics, such as "You're facing jail time for missing jury duty," or "Your Social Security number has been compromised."

AARP found that people are more likely to respond to a threatening message as opposed to one that promises a reward, such as "You won a contest," or "You qualify for a lower credit card interest rate."

While 42 percent of those surveyed said they would respond when the call promised a reward or money, more than half (51 percent) said they would likely ask for more information when the call involved negative consequences or a fear-based message.

Ninety percent of the adults surveyed by AARP said they want the federal government to do more to reduce the number of fake and misleading robocalls.

Congress is trying to tackle the problem: Last week, the senate passed the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence Act (TRACED Act) that would direct the Federal Communications Commission to develop rules that require telephone companies to provide an effective way to authenticate calls and allows them to block spoofed calls before they reach the consumer.

The Federal Communications Commission is expected to vote on a proposed robocall rule at its June 6 meeting that would:

  • Allow phone companies to block unwanted calls to their customers by default.
  • Permit phone companies to implement technology that would enable consumers to block calls not on their own contact list.

While this is a bold proposal, it would not require phone companies to take action, it would simply allow it. So for now, you'll need to do a few things on your own to deal with the deluge of unwanted calls.

You can't stop all robocalls, but there are some effective ways to fight back.

The major wireless companies all provide free and paid services that can alert you to suspected robocalls or block them, if you want. Here's what's free:

Third-party apps are also widely available and often free. They're not perfect, experts say, but they're the best tools available right now.

These apps include: HiyaYouMailRobokillerTrueCaller and Nomorobo (Nomorobo charges $1.99 a month for cellphones, but it's free for Internet, or VoIP, phone lines.) There isn't a lot you can do for traditional landline phones, except block individual phone numbers.

Consumer Reports suggests a few more steps you can take:

  • Join the registry: If you haven't done it already, add your home and cellphone numbers to the National Do Not Call Registry. This won't stop scammers, but it will tell legitimate telemarketers you do not want to be bothered.
  • Block it: When you get an unwanted call on your cellphone, take the time to enter it into your list of blocked numbers.
  • Create a robust contact list: Make sure it includes the names and numbers of doctors, service providers, friends or anyone else you might want to talk to who is not likely to get spoofed. That way, if they do call, their info will show up on your caller ID.

TIP: If you don't recognize the number, let the call go to voicemail. That's what I do. If it's a robocall, never call back, just delete the message.

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