March 24, 2010 / 9:05 AM / 10 years ago

Telecom operators join forces against mobile spam

* In Asia 20 pct of text messages spam

* In Europe below 1 pct, North America below 0.5 pct

* Mature market operators see risk to brand, revenues

By Tarmo Virki, European technology correspondent

HELSINKI, March 24 (Reuters) - Telecom operators are cooperating to halt extensive mobile spamming spreading from Asia to Europe and North America as this could hurt their brands and alienate subscribers.

The telecoms industry group GSMA unveiled on Wednesday a new spam reporting service, a world wide centre of messaging threats and misuse, analysing mobile users reports.

The new service, operated by messaging security firm Cloudmark, is in trials with operators including AT&T (T.N), Korea Telecom and Vivendi’s SFR (VIV.PA).

Unwanted mobile messaging — spam, viruses or phishing attacks — have surged in Asia as messaging prices have dropped to zero or close to zero, and already account for around 20 percent of all text messages. “We believe this will move over to Europe and United States probably during the next 18 months,” Hugh McCartney, chief executive of Cloudmark told Reuters in an interview.

So far in Europe and North America less than 1 percent of messages are spam, McCartney said.

“Operators just want to make sure it will never reach the level seen in Asia,” he said.

So far mobile telecom operators in the mature markets have been able to block most of the so far simple attacks, but Cloudmark and other mobile and messaging security firms expects risks to grow as messaging costs fall, attracting spammers.

Cloudmark, majority-owned by private equity firms including Summit Partners and Nokia Growth Partners NOK1V.HE, competes with bigger rivals Symantec SYMC.O and Cisco (CSCO.O) in messaging security market. (Reporting by Tarmo Virki; editing by Louise Heavens)

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