Mobile phone companies are trialling a new abuse reporting system that could make it much easier for networks to spot and block spam reported by consumers across the world.

Co-ordinated by the GSMA (GSM Association), the global Abuse Reporting Service will streamline the way consumers report spam, feeding reports directly from consumers into a larger database run by security provider Cloudmark, which has made its name filtering Internet spam.

Once analysed, this data will be used to generate reports for the operators on problems within their networks, or provide intelligence on threats faced by them such as the originators of spam and misuse patterns.

Currently, each operator will have its own spam reporting service, but these work only for that company and its customers.

A key element of the system is to make spam reporting as easy as possible for consumers, regardless of which network they use and in which country. For instance, depending on region, users will be able to forward suspected spam to their operator using the codes ‘7726' or ‘33700', replacing a plethora of different systems at present. Each spam report will receive an acknowledgement from the Cloudmark system.

Mobile spam is different from Internet spam. Although common in Asia where spammers exploit the essentially free nature of SMS texting there, many believe that as the same economics develop in Europe the problem will inevitably spread.

According to Cloudmark's European head of technology and services, Neil Cook, this worries mobile networks, which do not want a repeat of the disastrous experience of Internet email.

"The tolerance of subscribers for mobile spam is much lower than on the Internet," he points out. "As the price of messaging goes down, the problem goes up."

In the worst case scenario, operators could see the development of mobile botnets reminiscent of the spam-distribution systems that dominate the Internet.

The Abuse Reporting System trial is being rolled out using operators in three regions to demonstrate its global potential, beginning with AT&T Mobility, SFR of France, and Korea Telecom.