Just in time for election season, we are pleased to introduce our second generation robocall-blocking software which lets you deploy and periodically update the FCC’s RoboCall Blacklist on any Asterisk® 11 or 13 server platform. One of the biggest jokes in the U.S. telecommunications industry has been the FCC’s Do Not Call List, a convenient source of working phone numbers for all the spammers on Planet Earth. And, of course, the politicians exempted themselves from the robocalling ban. But the FCC robocall blacklist has no such exemption so the sooner you implement this, the quieter your dinner hour will become over the next couple of months.
Despite the threat of heavy fines, the FCC and FTC recently received over 200,000 complaints in a single month regarding unwanted robocalls and spam texts. In June of 2015, the FCC promulgated new rules clarifying that service providers could offer robocall-blocking technologies to consumers and implement market-based solutions that consumers could use to stop unwanted robocalls. And shortly thereafter the FCC began publishing a weekly spreadsheet of 10-digit numbers associated with robocallers.
Overview. Asterisk 11 and 13 already include a Blacklist feature to block unwanted callers. This functionality also has been integrated into the FreePBX® GUI for many years. We’ve now integrated it into Incredible PBX for XiVO as well. Because of the size of the FCC RoboCall Blacklist, however, an indexed, robust database is necessary to manage this 50,000 number blacklist on a busy PBX. With Asterisk 11 and 13, the integrated Asterisk Database now relies upon SQLite 3 with awesome performance. We need a simple way to distinguish FCC RoboCall Blacklist entries from other Blacklist entries that your PBX users have added either by phone using *30 and *32 or using the Blacklist feature in the GUI. In this way, the FCC entries can be refreshed regularly while preserving any user-created Blacklist entries. There were several approaches to implementation discussed, and you can read all about them on the PIAF Forum. We’ve cherrypicked what we think are the best of all worlds employing a single script with some really elegant additions provided by Adam Goldberg and Dick Ollett. We have chosen a methodology that does not require Asterisk to be offline when the script is run so you can run it at any time. The script always makes a backup copy of the last FCC Blacklist just in case the FCC “improves things” (as they did in May, 2016) and blows things out of the water. You can recover by loading the previous week’s entries using the import-last-fcc-blacklist script. Only when you run the script the first time will you be asked to agree to the license agreement. After that you can incorporate the script into weekly cron jobs and forget about it.
Installation. Installing the software is easy. Log into your Asterisk server as root and issue the following commands:
mkdir /root/fcc cd /root/fcc wget http://incrediblepbx.com/fcc-blacklist.tar.gz tar zxvf fcc-blacklist.tar.gz rm -f fcc-blacklist.tar.gz
Operation. After installation, you’ll end up with a copy of the GPL2 license (COPYING) and 2 scripts: import-fcc-blacklist and import-last-fcc-blacklist (described above). Each week or so, simply run /root/fcc/import-fcc-blacklist. After running it once, if you want to add it to /etc/crontab, here’s the command that will do it for you and spread the load on the FCC download site:
echo "$(($RANDOM%60)) $(($RANDOM%24)) * * $(($RANDOM%2 +6 )) root /root/fcc/import-fcc-blacklist > /dev/null" >> /etc/crontab
NOTE: For each FCC Blacklist entry that’s added, you’ll get an “Updated database successfully” message. Be patient. It takes several minutes to gobble up 50,000 entries.
Redirecting Blacklisted Callers. Some may prefer to redirect blacklisted callers to a destination other than the default “the number is not in service” announcement. You can do this easily by installing the Lenny Blacklist Mod for FreePBX. Download the module from the link provided to your desktop. In the FreePBX GUI, choose Admin -> Module Admin -> Upload Module. Choose the file you downloaded and click Upload from Hard Disk. Then enable the module and select the Lenny Blacklist Mod button from the GUI’s main status menu. You do NOT have to redirect callers to Lenny although that’s an option worth considering. A working version of Lenny is available at this SIP URI: SIPfirstname.lastname@example.org
Blocking Anonymous Callers. By default, both scripts block anonymous callers by adding them to your Asterisk Blacklist. If you want to disable this feature, comment out line 39 in both of the scripts before running them.
Other Helpful Hints. We’re now into the fourth iteration of the FCC RoboCall Blacklist, and there still appear to be a few problematic entries. For example, the main FedEx Customer Service number (800-Go-FedEx) remains in the blacklist.
To check whether a number is in the list, use this command:
asterisk -rx "database show blacklist/8004633339"
To manually delete an unwanted entry from the list after a database update:
asterisk -rx "database deltree blacklist 8004633339"
To permanently override a BlackList entry by adding it to your WhiteList:
asterisk -rx "database put whitelist 8004633339 1"
For other tips on getting the most out of this new software, we have a section on the PIAF Forum just for you. It addresses issues such as how to implement a BlackList with providers that deliver calls with 11 digits or that deliver NANPA calls with a +1 prefix. We’ve also documented how to add a WhiteList that overrides the FCC entries in the event there are numbers you actually need in the Blacklist. The WhiteList feature already is included in Incredible PBX for XiVO. Come join the discussion. Enjoy!
Originally published: Tuesday, September 13, 2016
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