Most people are already aware of the risks associated with clicking links in emails, but few are aware of the dangers of clicking links in text messages. Because users trust SMS messages more, smishing often proves to be a profitable attack method for attackers to steal victims' credentials, financial information, and identities.
Smishing has also become a major issue for corporate cybersecurity as the use of mobile devices for business becomes more common as a result of the development of remote work and BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policies. Therefore, it is not at all surprising that smishing has become a common type of cyberattack.
What is smishing?
Smishing - type of phishing attack in which a scammer uses an SMS message to convince the victim to open a malicious attachment or follow a malicious link.
In a cyberattack, a hacker tricks a victim into revealing sensitive information in order to use it for fraud or other malicious activities. Sometimes smishing can be facilitated by malware or phishing websites.
SMS messages usually come from a legitimate organization - the user's bank, service provider, mobile operator, or even a government agency.
Smishing (smishing = SMS + phishing) is a type of social engineering attack that is based on the exploitation of human trust, user deception, and not on technical exploits.
How does smishing work?
To carry out a smishing attack, a scammer must follow these steps:
- to make you feel compelled to respond. The message may be related to money, such as a promise of big money or a way to protect your money;
- to convince you to click on a link in the message that will take you to a phishing website. This site has been designed to look like the site you expect to see. For example, if it is a bank, then the phishing site will have the same fonts, logos, and color combinations that are on the bank's official website;
- The third step means that you yourself enter your personal information, username and password of your account.
This concludes the scammer's scheme. In addition, the purpose of smishing may be to steal funds directly from a bank account, fraudulently use personal data to illegally open credit cards, or expose private corporate data.
The smishing attack can also be completed in fewer steps. For example, the source text may contain a link that, when clicked, downloads malware to steal your personal information.
Types of smishing attacks
Messages in a smishing attack are sent to victims under various pretexts. Some of them:
Information about COVID-19;
Offer of financial services;
Notification of a prize or a gift;
Message from the customer support service;
Please confirm invoice or order.
How to recognize smishing
Smishing is easy to recognize if you know its signs. Here's how to tell if you're the target of a smishing attack:
Your account username and password may be requested by a scammer to gain access to the service you are using. The reasons why a hacker requires credentials are individual for each user. Therefore, you must be careful every time someone requests your data through a message.
Attachments and links in SMS
Most often, smishing messages contain links to a fake website that may collect your personal information. Therefore, never click on links in SMS.
If you do click the link, look for signs of a phishing website, such as a URL without "http".
Request for funds transfer
Be skeptical of money transfer requests sent via SMS. Remember that not all scams are obvious. A key element of smishing attacks is building trust. The attacker impersonates someone you know or trust well.
Suspicious phone number
SMS may come from a phone number that looks unusual. If you see a suspicious number and an even more suspicious message, do not reply to it and delete the SMS as soon as possible.
You do not need to believe such messages, especially if you did not participate in any competition. Such SMS may be interesting, but you should not click on the attached links. You need to delete the message immediately.
Most phishing emails and SMS messages contain urgent requests designed to scare the recipient. However, any trusted organization will notify customers in advance of the need for urgent action. Delete the message and contact the company on behalf of which the message was sent.
How to prevent smishing?
To avoid falling victim to this type of attack, you must adhere to the following security measures:
Never trust text messages you receive unexpectedly from a bank or cell phone operator for no reason;
Be wary of text messages that ask you to call a phone number or go to a web page to solve a problem or urgently verify your details;
Do not reply to messages that ask for personal information, such as credit card information. Always check the legitimacy of the sender;
Never respond to messages asking for a PIN code, password for online banking or other services;
Download apps from trusted and trusted app stores. Some smishing attacks may be designed to trick the victim into installing a malicious application on the device;
Confirm the sender's number. Unusual phone numbers, such as four digits, may indicate the use of email-to-text services. This is one way to hide your real phone number;
Use two-factor authentication. It is an additional layer of security in case you become a victim of an attack and give away one of your passwords. Biometric authentication also uses fingerprint technology and facial recognition to verify your identity when you try to log in.
How to mitigate a smishing attack?
- Report suspicious SMS to law enforcement and contact your bank or service provider;
- Freeze your account to avoid theft of funds;
- Change all passwords and PIN codes;
- Keep an eye on your finances and various online accounts to detect unauthorized system access and other fraudulent activities.