FCC Makes AI-generated Voices in Robocalls Illegal

Published by SIW.com, 2/8/24

Today the Federal Communications Commission announced the unanimous adoption of a Declaratory Ruling that recognizes calls made with AI-generated voices are “artificial” under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).

The ruling, which takes effect immediately, makes voice cloning technology used in common robocall scams targeting consumers illegal.  This would give State Attorneys General across the country new tools to go after bad actors behind these nefarious robocalls.

“Bad actors are using AI-generated voices in unsolicited robocalls to extort vulnerable family members, imitate celebrities, and misinform voters.  We’re putting the fraudsters behind these robocalls on notice,” said FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel.  “State Attorneys General will now have new tools to crack down on these scams and ensure the public is protected from fraud and misinformation.”

The rise of these types of calls has escalated during the last few years as this technology now has the potential to confuse consumers with misinformation by imitating the voices of celebrities, political candidates, and close family members.

While currently State Attorneys Generals can target the outcome of an unwanted AI-voice generated robocall—such as the scam or fraud they are seeking to perpetrate—this action now makes the act of using AI to generate the voice in these robocalls itself illegal, expanding the legal avenues through which state law enforcement agencies can hold these perpetrators accountable under the law.

In November of 2023, the FCC launched a Notice of Inquiry to build a record on how the agency can combat illegal robocalls and how AI might be involved. The agency asked questions on how AI might be used for scams that arise out of junk calls, by mimicking the voices of those we know, and whether this technology should be subject to oversight under the TCPA.

Similarly, the FCC also asked about how AI can help us with pattern recognition so that we turn this technology into a force for good that can recognize illegal robocalls before they ever reach consumers on the phone.

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act is the primary law the FCC uses to help limit junk calls.  It restricts the making of telemarketing calls and the use of automatic telephone dialing systems and artificial or prerecorded voice messages. Under FCC rules, it also requires telemarketers to obtain prior express written consent from consumers before robocalling them. This Declaratory Ruling ensures AI-generated voices in calls are also held to those same standards.

The TCPA gives the FCC civil enforcement authority to fine robocallers. The Commission can also take steps to block calls from telephone carriers facilitating illegal robocalls. In addition, the TCPA allows individual consumers or an organization to bring a lawsuit against robocallers in court.  Lastly, State Attorneys General have their own enforcement tools which may be tied to robocall definitions under the TCPA.

A coalition of 26 State Attorneys General—more than half of the nation’s AGs—recently wrote to the FCC supporting this approach.  By taking this step, the FCC is building on its work to establish partnerships with law enforcement agencies in states across the country to identify and eliminate illegal robocalls.

These partnerships can provide critical resources for building cases and coordinating efforts to protect consumers and businesses nationwide. The FCC offers partner states not only the expertise of its enforcement staff but also important resources and remedies to support state investigations.

The FCC currently has a Memorandum of Understanding with 48 State Attorneys General to work together to combat robocalls.

The passing of Anita Ostrowski, Vector Security

It is with a heavy heart that we share the news of the sudden passing of long time TMA member and revered volunteer leader Anita Ostrowski, vice president of Central Station Services for Vector Security. Anita died suddenly on Sunday, January 7th. At the time of her death, Anita served as the chair of TMA’s UL Committee and co-chair of the Monitoring Center Notification of Active Threat Detection (TMA-ATN-01) Standards Committee.

“Anita was not only an exceptional and highly valued volunteer within TMA, but she was also an extraordinary human being. Time and time again, I witnessed her openly and generously sharing her knowledge and experience with other monitoring center professionals while speaking and mentoring,” commented TMA CEO Celia T. Besore. “Her contributions to TMA education, standards, and the ASAP-to-PSAP program are immeasurable.”      

She joined the Vector Security team in 1985. In her nearly 40-year tenue at the company, she was dedicated to managing its award-winning monitoring center’s services. Her commitment to excellence won her two distinct honors from TMA. In 2008, TMA and SDM magazine presented her with the Monitoring Center Manager of the Year Excellence Award. TMA’s Immediate Past President Morgan Hertel honored Anita’s outstanding contributions to TMA standards and the ASAP-to-PSAP program with one of its highest awards in 2022 – the Mel Mahler Award.

Over the course of her career, Anita was deeply committed to alarm industry standards and actively participated in TMA’s development of ANSI accredited standards. As the chair for TMA’s UL Standards Committee, she worked with Underwriters Laboratories (UL) to update and adapt the standards to meet changing technologies. She also worked on the development of work-from-home requirements for monitoring center operators during the Covid-19 pandemic to ensure the integrity of professional monitoring, as well as sharing with the industry best practices that Vector had developed at the beginning of the pandemic. More recently, Anita participated in the development of TMA’s groundbreaking Alarm Validation Scoring standard (ANSI-TMA-AVS-01), which was released in January 2022.

In addition, Anita was also instrumental in the original development of TMA’s Operator Level 1 and Level 2, which has evolved into the gold standard for training monitoring center operators. She was a key member of the first TMA licensing group and a speaker at many TMA and industry conferences. She played an integral role in the implementation of the ASAP-to-PSAP standard across 911 centers from the very beginning.

The TMA Board of Directors, volunteer leadership, and staff join with the Vector Security family, our members, and many others across the security industry in mourning her loss.

Photo: (l to r) Pam Petrow, president and CEO, Vector Security; Anita Ostrowski; Celia T. Besore, CEO, TMA, at the 2022 TMA Annual Meeting where Anita was presented with the 2022 Mel Mahler Award  for her work in TMA standards and the ASAP-to-PSAP program. 

Creenan, Amherst Alarm, Elected Security Industry Alarm Coalition Chairman

Tim Creenan, founder and Vice President of Amherst Alarm and a long-time leader in the field of electronic security, has been elected chairman of the Security Industry Alarm Coalition (SIAC).

SIAC is comprised of four major North American security associations–Canadian Security Association (CANASA), Security Industry Association (SIA), The Monitoring Association (TMA), and the Electronic Security Association (ESA). Tim serves as the ESA representative on the board.

SIAC represents one voice for the electronic security industry on alarm management issues by communicating solutions and enhancing relationships with law enforcement.

“Tim’s unanimous selection reflects his commitment to SIAC’s mission and breadth of experience and leadership in our industry,” said outgoing chairman Kirk MacDowell.  “As treasurer, Tim demonstrated exceptional leadership as the finance chair steering the financial ship with precision and securing a solid foundation for the future.”

“Working with Kirk and our other board members has been a privilege,” said Creenan. “We will continue to move forward on our path of grooming the next generation of experts on our law enforcement liaison team and enhancing the fund-raising efforts to support SIAC’s important mission.

“While SIAC has had a great deal of success promoting the Model Alarm Ordinance in communities throughout the country, there are still many opportunities as we help promote the TMA AVS-01 standard, ASAP-to-PSAP and other technology to reduce unnecessary dispatches,” said Stan Martin, SIAC Executive Director.

Tim started in the electronic security field in 1975 working for a large locally owned security firm. Tim earned a degree in electronic engineering at State University College at Buffalo. In 1984 Tim and his wife founded Amherst Alarm, Inc., which today has more than sixty-five employees serving the Western New York market. Amherst Alarm is the recipient of the prestigious Police Dispatch Quality Award (PDQ). In March 2023, Amherst Alarm became part of the Pye-Barker Fire Safety family of companies.

Tim’s involvement in the industry associations began with the Western New York Electronic Security Association, where he served as Secretary, President and Past President. He has also served the New York State Electronic Security Association, as Secretary, Treasurer, Vice President, and President- during two different terms. He is currently Chair of the association’s Legislative Committee and was instrumental in leading the association’s efforts in reforming the enforcement policies of New York State’s alarm installer license. On the national level, he has served as chairman of the Election Committee of the Electronic Security Association, the Government Relations Committee, Governance Task Force and as member of the Board of Directors as the New York State Electronic Security Association representative. And is a past Board member of the Electronic Security Association. He is also involved in SIAC – Security Industry Alarm Coalition as a member of the board of directors as Treasurer.

In 2018, Tim was inducted into the Security Sales & Integration’s Hall of Fame.

Tim’s concern for the industry and public has kept him focused on reducing false alarms. This has led to Amherst Alarm’s certification in and his personal involvement in the Installation Quality (IQ) Board program, where he served as Treasurer, Chairperson and is currently board member.

UL Solutions Empowers Alarm Monitoring Centers to Help Advance Public Safety with New Certification Program

UL Solutions announced its new service, the UL Solutions Alarm Validation Scoring Certification Program, that helps security alarm monitoring centers in the United States improve communication with public safety professionals, such as law enforcement agencies and emergency response operators. The new certification program resulted from a collaboration between the security monitoring industry, public safety professionals and UL Solutions with the goal of enhancing security alarm notifications and information.

UL Solutions can now evaluate monitoring centers against requirements in The Monitoring Association’s (TMA) voluntary standard ANSI/TMA-AVS-01 2023, Alarm Validation Scoring Standard. This standard includes an alarm scoring or classification metric designed to streamline communication between monitoring centers and public safety professionals, leading to better prioritization of calls. The new UL Solutions certification program uses the alarm scoring system as defined in the standard.

“The move toward industry-wide standardization of security alarm notifications and response processes supports collaboration and efficiency between monitoring centers and public safety professionals,” said Karine Johnfroe, vice president and general manager of the Built Environment group at UL Solutions. “We work closely with The Monitoring Association and industry stakeholders to understand their needs and help address safety-critical challenges. UL Solutions’ new program empowers monitoring centers to demonstrate they are aligned with industry best practices for security alarm response procedures, which play an essential role in the success of public safety professionals throughout the United States.”

UL Solutions’ new program includes a self-assessment, ongoing compliance management, and an audit of the monitoring facility’s alarm notification, validation and response processes.

The ANSI/TMA-AVS-01 standard provides an industry-first alarm scoring or classification metric for intrusions detected by security alarm systems. It assists public safety professionals with resource allocation and prioritization of calls for service.

  • Alarm Level 0 – No call for service
  • Alarm Level 1 – Call for service with no other information
  • Alarm Level 2 – Call for service with proof of or a high probability that a person or persons are present at the alarm site
  • Alarm Level 3 – Call for service knowing a person or persons are present at the alarm site and an apparent threat to property
  • Alarm Level 4 – Call for service knowing a person or persons are present at the alarm site and an apparent threat to life

“The Monitoring Association brought together a wide section of stakeholders from the security monitoring industry, including UL Solutions and public safety professionals, to develop an ANSI standard that provides a standardized alarm validation score or classification metric for intrusion detected by security alarm systems. The score will assist law enforcement with resource allocation and call for service prioritization,” said Celia Besore, CEO of The Monitoring Association. “UL Solutions will help alarm monitoring centers demonstrate their commitment to this industry-wide collaboration that can enhance notifications and provide public safety professionals with critical information.”

Learn more about UL Solutions’ new service for security alarm monitoring centers.

FAST Launches 2023 Compensation & Benefits Benchmarking Study

The Foundation for Advancing Security Talent (FAST) is today launching the 2023 Security Industry Compensation & Benefits Benchmarking Study.

This survey “will provide invaluable insights into salaries and benefits across the security industry, empowering decision-makers to recruit, hire, and retain top talent effectively,” according to the foundation announcement.

“The security industry plays a pivotal role in safeguarding our communities and businesses, and understanding compensation and benefits trends is crucial for its continued growth and excellence,” the FAST announcement says.

“FAST, in collaboration with prominent industry partners such as the Security Industry Association (SIA), Electronic Security Association (ESA), PSA Security Network and Security Sales and Integration, is committed to providing the most comprehensive and accurate data possible.

Inside the Survey

Key highlights of the 2023 Compensation & Benefits Benchmarking Study include:

  • Industry-Wide Focus: This study encompasses both security manufacturers and integrators, offering a holistic view of the industry’s compensation landscape.
  • Standardized Data: Standardized job titles and descriptions enable direct comparisons of compensation data, allowing businesses to make informed decisions.
  • Advance Access: Participating organizations will gain access to a sneak preview of the survey results before the full publication, giving them a competitive edge.
  • Complete Confidentiality: Individual responses will remain confidential, with only aggregated data being published to protect participants’ privacy.

FAST invites all industry stakeholders to actively participate in this essential initiative. By contributing your insights and expertise, you can:

  • Assess compensation structures within your organization
  • Attract and retain top talent by aligning with industry compensation benchmarks
  • Make informed, data-driven strategic decisions

Complete the survey by Friday, Oct. 6 using the instructions provided by FAST’s survey partner, Vault Consulting. The survey may take one to three hours to complete.

“Widespread participation ensures the quality and reliability of the data, so your contribution is vital,” the FAST announcement says.

DHS announces additional $374.9 million in funding to boost State, Local Cybersecurity

The Department of Homeland Security has announced the availability of $374.9 million in grant funding for the Fiscal Year (FY) 2023 State and Local Cybersecurity Grant Program (SLCGP). State and local governments face increasingly sophisticated cyber threats to their critical infrastructure and public safety. Now in its second year, the SLCGP is a first-of-its-kind cybersecurity grant program specifically for state, local, and territorial (SLT) governments nationwide to help them strengthen their cyber resilience. Established by the State and Local Cybersecurity Improvement Act, and part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the SLCGP provides $1 billion in funding over four years to support SLT governments as they develop capabilities to detect, protect against, and respond to cyber threats. This year’s funding allotment represents a significant increase from the $185 million allotted in FY22, demonstrating the Administration and Congress’s commitment to help improve the cybersecurity of communities across the nation.

“In today’s threat environment, any locality is vulnerable to a devastating cyber attack targeted at a hospital, school, water, or other system,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas. “The Department of Homeland Security is helping to ensure that every community, regardless of size, funding, or resources, can meet these threats and keep their residents and their critical infrastructure safe and secure. These cybersecurity grants will help state, local, and territorial governments do just that, and I strongly urge communities nationwide to submit an application.”

SLCGP is jointly administered by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). CISA provides expertise and guidance on cybersecurity issues while FEMA manages the grant award and allocation process. Award recipients may use the funding for a wide range of cybersecurity improvements and capabilities, including cybersecurity planning and exercising, hiring cyber personnel, and improving the daily services that citizens rely on.

“State and local governments are facing increasingly sophisticated cyber threats to their critical infrastructure and public safety,” said CISA Director Jen Easterly. “As the Nation’s Cyber Defense Agency, CISA is pleased to make available yet another tool that will help strengthen cyber defenses for communities across the nation and bolster our collective cybersecurity.”

“Building resilience requires more than mitigating against natural hazards,” said FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell. “As our threat landscape continues to evolve, the funding provided through the state, local, and territorial cybersecurity grant program will increase capability to help communities better prepare and reduce cyber risks.”

State and local governments have until October 6 to apply for this FY23 grant opportunity. For more information and helpful resources on the State and Local Cybersecurity Grant Program, visit CISA’s webpage: cisa.gov/cybergrants.

Kirk MacDowell to Receive Prestigious Moody Award for Decades of Leadership in Electronic Security Industry

Kirk MacDowell founder and CEO of MacGuard Security Advisors, Inc. has been honored with the prestigious William N. Moody Award. The award will be presented at the SIAC awards presentation and reception at 5:00 pm on June 6 at the Electronic Security EXPO in Louisville, Kentucky. Created in 2004 by the Security Industry Alarm Coalition (SIAC), the Moody Award is given annually to an individual who demonstrates a passion for advancing positive alarm management and best industry practices.

“Kirk helped provide great energy, imagination and leadership when he was named SIAC chairman,” said Stan Martin, SIAC executive director.  “But his role in SIAC is only the latest in a long list of contributions he has made to the industry while at the same time building a successful 43-year career in law enforcement and the private sector.

“Kirk has a unique and diverse background that has been invaluable to helping SIAC achieve its mission of working with law enforcement to promote best practices in alarm management,” said Martin.  “He has owned a full-service security, armed guard response and central station company in Los Angeles and has led the 43rd largest alarm company in the US. In security manufacturing, he held varying roles of increasing responsibility at General Electric and United Technologies. In the software field, Kirk was VP of Platform Sales for alarm cloud innovator Alarm.com. Kirk also served 29 years with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department as a full-time Deputy and ultimately retired as a Reserve Lieutenant. He is currently president of MacGuard Security Advisors Inc., which provides business strategies, strategic growth initiatives, builder development services, acquisition analysis, SWOT evaluation, and customer satisfaction surveys.”

MacDowell has also served the electronic security industry as Past Chairman, Alarm Industry Research and Education Foundation (AIREF), Chairman, Security Industry Alarm Collation (SIAC), Chairman, Leadership Identification and Nomination Committee of ESA (LINC), former board member, Security Industry Association (SIA), former board member, The Monitoring Association (TMA), and Past President, Los Angeles County Burglar and Fire Alarm Association (LABFAA).

“It has been a privilege throughout my career to work with other professionals in our industry like Bill Moody who recognized that by working together we could best serve and protect our communities,” said MacDowell. “I would urge the next generation of leaders in our industry to make this same commitment to its mission of enhancing public safety.”

About the William N. Moody Award    

The William N. Moody Award was established in 2004 by the SIAC Board of Directors to recognize those who embody Bill’s dedication to alarm management issues. The award honors individuals who reflect attributes that include integrity, fairness and perseverance in the face of adversity. 

About SIAC

SIAC represents one voice for the electronic security industry on alarm management issues –communicating solutions and enhancing relationships with law enforcement.  SIAC is comprised of four major North American security associations–Canadian Security Association (CANASA), Security Industry Association (SIA), Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA), and the Electronic Security Association (ESA). For more information, go to www.SIACinc.orgwww.siacinc.wordpress.com, or follow us on www.twitter.com/siacinc.

MacDowell to Receive Prestigious Moody Award for Decades of Leadership in Electronic Security Industry

New York Governor signs Fair Repair Act, with amendments to protect most alarm devices and services

At year end, New York Governor Hochul signed the Fair Repair Act into law, making it easier for consumers to repair their own electronic devices.  Fortunately, in response to concerns raised by AICC and members of the alarm industry, the Governor simultaneously enacted amendments to the Act to help prevent the compromise of alarm systems in a way that would endanger customers and the public.

The original version of the Act (S. 4104-A) would have required manufacturers of “digital electronic equipment”, including alarm systems, to make product manuals, repair tools, lockout codes, passwords, system design schematics and other information available to customers and third-party contractors, so that they can attempt repairs on their own.  Both houses of the New York legislature passed the bill in June 2022.  Before the bill was forwarded to the Governor for signing, AICC and members of the alarm industry weighed in with a request asking for chapter amendments to the Act, so as to exempt central station alarm operations from the disclosure requirements in the bill.  AICC pointed out that if access codes, passwords, or alarm system schematics are provided to customers or their contractors, and then either hacked or innocently made public (e.g., as part of a You Tube self-help video), it could allow bad actors to disable alarm systems, endangering tens or hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers.

The Governor’s amendment to the Fair Repair Act was responsive to alarm industry concerns in multiple ways:

  • Creation of a specific exemption for “home” security devices and alarm systems;
  • Creation of a specific exemption for equipment sold under a specific business-to-government or business-to-business contract, which is not otherwise offered for sale directly by a retail seller;
  • Deletion of the requirement for any alarm manufacturer or provider to disclose security codes and passwords for alarm equipment under any circumstance;
  • Creation of an exemption for “medical devices” which should be broad enough to cover many security/medical monitoring pendants (to the extent that these devices are not already protected by the “home” alarm exemption discussed above);
  • Grandfathering of pre-July 1, 2023 equipment, narrowing the scope of the new disclosure requirements and giving the alarm industry time to prepare for the new law (to the extent any devices don’t qualify for one of the above exemptions).
  • Creation of an exemption for certain anti-theft security measures;
  • Allowing the provision of replacement part assemblies rather than individual components.
  • Protecting alarm and other manufacturers from having to disclose trade secrets or intellectual property.

Provided courtesy of AICC.

TMA Honors Fiore’s Lifetime Contribution with Everlasting Scholarship

The Monitoring Association’s (TMA) President Morgan Hertel announced the establishment of the Louis T. Fiore Electronic Communications Scholarship on Mon., Oct. 31st during the TMA General Business Meeting at the 2022 Annual Meeting on Marco Island, FL. The scholarship honors Mr. Fiore’s enduring contribution to the alarm industry and the Alarm Industry Communications Committee (AICC) and is intended to promote careers in electronic communications.

“How do you recognize someone who’s given his heart and soul for more than 30 years to an organization?” asked President Hertel when introducing the new scholarship. “Lou has served the alarm industry in many capacities. We wanted to honor his immeasurable contributions in an everlasting manner to make certain he and his work is never forgotten.” The room rose with a standing ovation as Fiore approached the stage to accept a small token of recognition from President Hertel.

“I am honored. As chair of the AICC for 30 years, I worked hard to make certain the Committee and its members thrived. The work was very close to my heart. Thank you very much. This is incredible,” stated Fiore in his acceptance comments.

The scholarship is open to anyone studying electrical engineering, specifically electronic communications, or software development related to electronic communications, regardless of financial need. Students at any nationally accredited educational institution, including vocational schools, two-year colleges, or other institutions of higher learning are eligible.

For more information on this scholarship, including donating, go to https://tma.us/louis-t-fiore-electronic-communications-scholarship/

Pictured (l to r): Bill Signer, Carmen Group; Ret. U.S. Rep. Peter T. King [R-NY]; and Louis T. Fiore