Smishing in Cyber Security – Definition, Examples, & Prevention Techniques
The innovation of smartphones has changed everything. From communication to accessing global information, all these things are possible with just a touch. However, this technological advancement is at risk. Reports say that smishing attacks are significantly rising day by day. Since these attacks are being carried out via smartphones, personal information stored in smartphones can no longer be safe.
So, without further ado let’s understand what’s smishing in cyber security, how our phones relate to it, and what you can do to stay safe from such a type of attack.
What is Smishing in Cyber Security?
Smishing also referred to as SMS phishing, is a phishing cybersecurity attack that uses text messages sent to mobile devices.
It is classified as a specific kind of social engineering attack that focuses more on technical exploits than on human trust.
When cybercriminals “phish,” they send phony emails with the intention of getting the receiver to click on a dangerous link. Smishing only replaces emails with text messages.
In essence, the goal of these internet criminals is to steal your personal data in order to commit fraud or other crimes. This usually involves taking money—typically your own, but possibly also the money belonging to your company.
Smishing Method(s) that Cybercriminals Use to Steal Data
One of two techniques is frequently used by cybercriminals to steal this data:
- Malware: The smishing URL link may deceive you into installing harmful software, or malware, which then sets up shop on your phone. By pretending to be reliable software, this SMS malware may trick you into entering sensitive information, which would subsequently be forwarded to the hackers.
- Malicious website: The smishing message’s link can take you to a bogus website that asks you to provide sensitive personal data. Cybercriminals design rogue websites that mimic official ones in order to more easily steal your information.
Smishing SMS messages frequently pose as messages from your bank and seek you for sensitive information like your account or ATM number. Giving the information is the same as giving burglars the combination to your bank account.
This type of attack is evolving into a consumer and commercial danger as more individuals use their personal smartphones for work (a practice known as BYOD, or “bring your own device”). Smishing has thus emerged as the predominant method of sending harmful SMS messages, which should not come as a surprise.
Mobile device-specific cybercrime is on the rise, along with mobile device usage. Other than the fact that texting is the most popular smartphone activity, there are a few other elements that make this an especially sneaky security risk. Let’s examine how smishing attacks function to provide further context.
How Does Smishing in Cyber Security Work?
Most smishing attacks function similarly to email attacks. The sender of the message tempts the recipient to click on a link or to reply with private information about the intended user.
An attacker might look for any information, including:
- Online login information.
- Personal data that might be utilized in identity fraud.
- Financial information that may be used for online fraud or for sale on darknet markets.
Users are duped into sending private information by smishers in a number of different methods. To trick the target into believing the message is coming from a reliable source, they may use basic information about the target (such as name and address) from open web tools.
The smisher might address you personally by using your name and location. These specifics strengthen the message’s impact. A link to an attacker-controlled server is then displayed in the message. The link could take you to a notorious website for credentials or to malware that can infect your phone. The infection can then be used to eavesdrop on the user’s smartphone data or communicate private information covertly to a server under the control of the attacker.
In addition to smishing, social engineering is used. Before sending a text message, the attacker may call the victim and request personal information. The smisher’s text message assault will thereafter be able to use the confidential data. By showing “Spam Danger” on a smartphone whenever a user receives a call from a known scam number, several telcos have attempted to combat mind-manipulating calls.
Basic Android and iOS security mechanisms frequently prevent malware from being installed. But, no security measures can stop users who voluntarily send their data to an unidentified number, even with strong security safeguards on mobile operating systems.
Types of Smishing Attacks You Should Know
Smishing attacks, like conventional email-based attack attempts, deceive users into clicking a link that is contained in the message. Common justifications include:
- Account Problems: When brands use SMS messages for customer support more frequently, customers may be used to seeing texts about problems with or alerts about their accounts. In this type, Smishers might send messages to a target claiming there is a problem and directing them to a false website that takes account information.
- COVID-19: This type frequently uses current events as cover, and the COVID-19 epidemic offered several opportunities for cybercriminals. For “contact tracing,” COVID-based smishing schemes may request personal information, or they may give false information concerning stimulus checks and public safety updates that direct users to notorious websites.
- Financial Services: Scammers may pretend to be a financial services company and ask the receiver to confirm account activity. As part of the verification procedure, if the victim responds, the smisher might try to steal login credentials or other sensitive information.
- MFA Codes: Several smishing attacks are made to steal these codes because SMS is one of the most widely utilized ways for multi-factor authentication (MFA). The phisher can instruct the target that they must provide the attacker with the MFA code that was texted to them in order to prove their identity. By attempting to log in as the target user, the attacker activates this code, and after receiving the right code from the recipient, they are granted access.
- Order Confirmation: This smishing type may include a link to change or cancel a fake order as well as a confirmation of the order. The receiver is taken to a fake website where their login information is stolen when they click the link.
Examples of Smishing Attacks
Most cybercriminals use automated text-sending mechanisms to avoid getting caught. They look so realistic that for a second you’ll think that these messages are coming from a genuine source.
Here are some of the examples. (Highlighting the headings)
- Your tax refund was rejected.
- You have been in close contact with an individual who has tested positive for COVID-19.
- Warning: You’re in trouble.
To get a clear picture of what a smishing attack looks like. Refer to the below image which shows some real-world examples.
How Can You Defend Against Smishing Attacks in Cyber Security?
Similar to attacks involving emails, smishing prevention relies on the capacity of the targeted user to recognize a smishing attack and decide whether to ignore or report the message. If a phone number is regularly used in scams, users who get messages from it may be cautioned by the telecom or the message may be completely ignored.
Smishing messages are only dangerous if the victim responds by clicking the link or sending the attacker their personal information.
Here are some techniques to avoid becoming a victim and to recognize smishing:
- The advertisement promises rapid income, either through winning prizes or by receiving money after providing personal information. Coupon code offers are also frequent.
- Banking organizations never send texts requesting login information or money transfers. Never send someone your credit card number, ATM PIN, or banking details through text message.
- Never pick up the phone when someone calls from an unfamiliar number.
- Email addresses are typically where messages with only a few digits originate, which is a symptom of spam.
- Attackers are curious about the preserved banking information on smartphones. Do not store this information on a mobile device. This banking information might be compromised if an attacker installs malware on the smartphone.
- To report attacks, telecoms provide phone numbers. Send the message to your telecom’s number so that it can be investigated in order to safeguard other users.
Smishing attack is becoming a real concern for the cybersecurity of individuals and organization. More and more people are falling into the trap of manipulative text messages out of fear and greed. Studies reveal that three out of four are becoming victims every now and then. Thus, it’s advisable for each and everyone to be aware of such types of fraud and be cyber-safe.
Q- What kind of information do fraudsters seek through smishing?
Typically fraudsters seek credit card details, social security numbers, bank account details, login credentials, or any information. Such that they can use that information for financial fraud.
Q- Is it possible to block smishing messages?
Yes. Nowadays most smartphones come with an in-built spam message Filter option. Through this, you can filter out phony messages and block them.
Q- Can smishing messages contain malware?
Yes. Smishing messages may contain malicious links opening which may lead to notorious websites or download malware on your device.
Q- How to identify a smishing attack?
Look for warning signs such as messages asking for personal information, containing suspicious links, grammatical errors, and a sense of urgency.