In this fast-paced world, we rely on mobile devices for everything we do. We use mobile phones, to pay bills, for email communications, for online banking, for online shopping, for buying food, and so on. You will hardly find something that is not connected to your cell phone. Although they have made everything easy for us, they also have put us at the risk of cyberattacks. Cybercriminals are becoming powerful with new tricks; one of them is smishing. Smishing is a common and dangerous form of cyberattacks. The synonyms for smishing include SMS driven break-in, burglary, and extortion. We will explore in detail about what is smishing attack, its working, techniques, and prevention methods – let us start with smishing definition.
What is Smishing?
Smishing is the combination of “SMS text messages” and “phishing” which means it is a type of phishing attack that is carried out through text messages you receive on your device. SMS phishers send you a message containing alluring content to convince you to press on the given link. If you click on the address, you will be taken to a website that looks like a real site and asks you to enter your sensitive information like user ID, password, or banking details on it. If you do so, you will become a victim of cybercriminals that will use your data to commit identity frauds, steal money from your bank account, or perform any other malicious activities.
Smishing and phishing sound like the same? Yeah, it is right because smishing is a form of phishing. Do you know what is phishing?
A phishing scam is a form of cyberattacks that tries to target you or your business by sending malicious links or messages through emails, SMS text messages, or phone calls. If you click on the links or provide confidential information over phone calls, you will fall prey to these fraudulent activists.
Types of Smishing
SMS phishing scams are carried out in numerous ways. Here are some of the most common smishing methods that cybercriminals use nowadays:
- Text messages from financial institutions, banks, or insurance companies saying there is an issue with your account that needs to be solved quickly
- Messages with a note that you have won a big prize, lottery ticket, or discounts offered
- Text messages from online organizations asking you to verify your payment methods
- Messages from different charities for donation
- SMS from authorities to know details about pandemic
How do SMS Phishing Frauds work?
Smishing attacks are not complicated; instead, they are so easy to execute. Attackers use a few tools and target the people by sending text messages. Sometimes, the scammers get the details about their victims before launching an attack (social engineering scam).
Here is a complete flow of how exactly SMS phishing attacks play out:
- First, you receive a text message from cybercriminals. The attackers use spoofed phone numbers to ensure that SMS is coming from a legal identity. Also, the content of the message is related to the fake phone number to make it appear to authenticate. For instance, if the scammers have spoofed a bank number to contact you, then they will ask you questions related to your bank account. If the fraudsters have gathered details about you, then they will ask for more specific information about you to make you believe that the text message is coming from a real website or application that you use.
- The content of the text messages is different from case to case. But the goal of all the messages is to create a sense of urgency to evoke you to take quick action.
- The third step determines your fate. If you ignore the text message, then it is the end of this scam. But, if you click on the link, it will direct you to a legitimate-looking website that is a phony site. On reaching the site, either you will be asked to provide confidential information or download software to complete the process.
- You would be convinced to provide confidential information like user ID, your work login, banking details, credit card details, etc.
- The website will ask you to download a program on your mobile phone. This will give the attackers access to your device. They can then monitor all your movements and can steal your account information, money, etc.
Common things in Smishing scams
Although the content of SMS phishing techniques varies in every scenario, yet they all have some similarities in them that are:
Smishing Scams tend to be original
There is notable progress in phishing scams over the last decade. Now, they do not send messages that can be recognized as scams very easily; rather, they send highly specialized texts making it difficult for you to differentiate between fraud and authenticate messages.
For instance, instead of messages like “you have won a lottery ticket,” they send the texts saying “your Atm card has expired, click on the link to reactivate now”. This is what makes these scams appear realistic and prompt you to follow the link.
Smishing frauds carry website links
The goal of smishing text messages is to make people trust messages to complete malicious activities. Smishers often send you a message that contains a website link. Their objective is to get you to click on the link that will direct you to a fake website and provide your confidential information there.
Sometimes that website may also convince you to download software on your device. That program enables the attackers to access your mobile/computer completely.
Smishers create a sense of urgency
This is an effective tactic used by SMS phishers. They play with your emotions (fear or greed) by creating a sense of urgency. You get panic and response quickly to the attackers that put you in trouble. Smishers use specific messages that you cannot simply ignore. For example, they will send you a message like “your account has been charged an amount” that looks suspicious, and you cannot overlook this text message easily.
Smishing scammers use spoofed phone numbers
Spoofing is not related to emails only; hackers use spoofing techniques for voice calls and SMS messages scams too.
Smishers send you text messages from spoofed numbers to give their attacks a legal look. Spoofing helps the attackers to anonymously send messages to people, making them believe that they are coming from an authenticated identity.
Why are Smishing Scams so dangerous?
SMS text message frauds can cause harm to you and your business. They are one of the popular attacking techniques used by hackers because:
- SMS frauds are one of the easiest and cheapest ways to trick customers. Cybercriminals send you text messages containing suspicious links with seemingly helpful information that make you believe in the sender and push you to click on the link. All it takes is a single mistake to fall, victim, this smishing attack.
- In today’s world, all of us use numerous applications to keep our data on our mobile devices. The problem is that mobile devices do not tell you of spam messages because they typically do not carry programs to detect them. When you click on the suspicious link, the SMS scammers can get all your information depending on the design of that fraud. You could lose your entire information if the link were programmed to do so.
- Cybercriminals can harm your organization by manipulating your employees through text messages. They may send text messages pretending to be boss to your employees to ask for sensitive information about your company. They can also blackmail your employees through text messages to reveal the secrets of your firm.
- A single smishing attack can ruin the status of your organization in front of customers. Your clients expect you to keep their sensitive information secure. If any smishing attack happened to hurt them in any way, they would break all their relations with your firm.
How to stay safe against Smishing Scams
As you know, smishing scams can be carried out by different means. Therefore, you need to implement various strategies to protect yourself and your organization from such scams.
How to prevent yourself from Smishing Attacks
- If you receive a message from an unknown number that has a link too, ignore that message.
- If you open the text message coming from an unknown person, avoid clicking on the link even though it appears to be important for you.
- Ok now, if you have clicked on the link in a panic or excitement of losing or getting something. Just do not provide your private information (user ID, password, banking details) to that website. Note that your bank or any other legitimate authority does not ask you to provide your confidential data by reaching you through text messages.
- But if you already have given your sensitive information on that site then do not waste time and take quick action against it. Depending on the data you provided, contact the concerned authorities to report the spam and save yourself from a big loss.
- Block the numbers that seem to be spam to you that will prevent you from getting messages in the future.
How to prevent your Organization from Phishing Scams
Of course, you can use almost all the points discussed above to save your business too. But here are some additional security measures that you must adopt to secure your company:
- Most cyberattacks get successful due to human mistakes. Therefore, you must keep updating your employees about all the known cyber techniques. Once they become familiar with all the existing dangers, they will respond sensitively to all these scams.
- As you know, all your employees do not need access to websites, networks, databases, and other important systems of your organization to do their job. So, you should implement access limiting policy in your company that will allow your employees only to use the resources that they require to complete their work. By doing so, you are minimizing the risk of data exposure of your business in case one of your employees becomes a victim of smishers.
- If you receive the information that someone is trying to launch an attack on your company, then do not keep this message only with you but tell all your employees to put them on red alert. So, they stay conscious about all the scams during their work. Also, make sure that your firm does not ask your customers to provide their sensitive data through text messages.
Smishing scams have been haunting us for many years, and they are not going to leave us soon. Smishing attacks are extremely dangerous types of cyberattacks, and you should train your employees about their harmful effects on your organization. You can protect yourself and your business from these smishing attacks by strictly following the guidelines laid down above.