People are absolutely dependent on their phones these days. It is a necessity for a person to own a smartphone, whether for work, entertainment, or both. When you look at the stats and figures of the smartphone industry, you can see that there has been a massive increase in smartphone ownership around the world.
The number of smartphone users in the United States has increased from 35% to 77% in just 3 years. According to a survey conducted by Forrester Research, 34% of US adults aged 18 and older currently own or have access to a smartphone or e-reader such as Kindle.
The issue is that while smartphone ownership has become so common, many people are not aware of the potential risks that come with it. One of the growing risks that smartphone users face is Smishing. Which we will be diving into in this article.
What is Smishing?
Smishing is a new term that stands for SMS Phishing, which involves using either social engineering or some form of technical exploit to steal users’ account information. While not all smishing attempts are successful, some can be pretty convincing enough to make people believe what they are reading is true.
One of the most common forms of Smishing is when someone sends you a text message, which claims to be from your bank. The message will usually include an urgent call to action, stating that your account has been compromised and that you need to verify or update your login information in order for it not to be hacked into.
These messages are designed to take advantage of people’s security fears. For example, if something happens with their bank accounts, they are usually very anxious about it. Smishing messages are essentially phishing messages by using SMS instead of email. They are often sent en masse in waves across many different mobile providers at once, so one message could potentially go out over millions of cell phones all at once.
How Hackers and Cyber Criminals use Social Engineering?
When it comes to smishing attacks, hackers and cybercriminals are using social engineering in order to make their attacks seem legitimate. For example, one of the most common social engineering schemes is when people call you pretending to be your bank or another financial institution. They will usually claim that they are calling because someone logged into your account from an unknown source, which should only happen if there was some sort of breach within the organization’s security systems.
They will then ask you for your login details to verify that it really is you who has your bank account compromised. They want this information to take control of your account and access whatever funds may be inside it. Once thieves obtain this verification information, they will proceed by stealing money, transferring it to other bank accounts, and even demanding ransom in order for them not to disable your account.
By using a person’s emotions against them, hackers can manipulate people into revealing valuable information that they would not even consider providing otherwise. So even if you think that the call doesn’t seem legitimate because it might be late at night or too early in the morning, it is best to just hang up the phone and contact your bank directly through an official channel instead.
Types of Smishing Attacks
There are various methods cybercriminals use to lure victims into a smishing trap. But, first, we’re going to dive into the most common methods used, which include:
Phony Banking Emergency Messages
Attackers can place fake calls to bank customers, pretending to be from the bank itself to collect personal information. Attackers can go as far as using fake caller-ID data to make the call look legit.
Short Code Messaging Spoofing
Shortcode smishing messages are designed to dupe people into clicking on a link, leading you to a malicious website that looks very legitimate. Still, it is actually controlled by hackers who then steal your password or other personal information.
Fake UPS Package Messages
Fake messages about an attempted or successful delivery of a package are also becoming very common. An attacker can spoof the number that usually belongs to USPS, FedEx, or UPS to convince users that they have delivered a package to them for which they need to click on a link. This link then leads you straight into the hands of hackers who are looking to steal your information.
Fake Prize-Winning Messages
This type of attack is also becoming very common. For example, an attacker can spoof a message claiming the user has won some prize. Still, they need to click on a link that leads them right into the hands of hackers looking to steal their information.
Fake Messages from Brands and Retailers
Taking on a persona of trusted name brands like Walmart or Amazon is also becoming increasingly common. They use fake messages claiming the receiver has won a prize or is entitled to a discount, all while acting as well-known brands to get people to click on their links, which then leads them into the hands of hackers looking for your information.
How to Identify a Smishing Message?
Smishing messages are sometimes difficult to identify due to the number of common features they can have. However, here are some ways you can tell that the message is fake:
- The sender does not list their name or company name, or if they do, it looks fake or unrecognizable by your contacts list.
- The link takes you to an unknown domain since it’s rare for reputable brands and well-known brands to use shortened links that redirect you to another website unless there are a legitimate reason for them doing so, making them much easier targets for hackers.
- If the sender asks for personal information like passwords, account details, etc. It’s usually suspicious, especially if they ask you questions that only someone who has access would know about you, such as your mother’s maiden name.
- If they say you’ve won a prize or need to claim a prize, but first they need you to click on the link for them to send it over, then it is usually fake. They can also ask you to “follow” their social media profiles to verify your information which is also suspicious since this is a common method used by hackers who want access to your accounts.
How to Prevent Smishing Attacks?
Being cautious and looking out for potential smishing attacks is the best way of protecting yourself from being hacked. The following are ways that can help prevent being tricked into giving away valuable data:
- Only validate information through official channels such as contacting the company directly via email, website, phone number on their official social media accounts.
- If you are ever in doubt about the sender’s legitimacy through common sense and only trust messages that come from known sources, checking for spelling mistakes is a good idea since it might be an indicator of fake messages.
- Suppose someone asks you to click on a link, follow them on social media, or send personal information. In that case, it’s best to ignore the message entirely even if they act like they know who you are because, most likely, they don’t know who you are at all and will try stealing your information.
You’ve Fallen for a Smishing Trap. What can you do?
Suppose you have already fallen for a smishing scam or find out that your information was leaked. In that case, there are some things to do to remedy the situation.
- First of all, it is vital to change your passwords immediately across all of your accounts since they might have gotten access to one password and changed them on others. It’s also suggested that you send yourself a password reset email just in case something like this happens again so that you can get back into your account successfully.
- Secondly, suppose any financial information had been stolen. In that case, it is necessary to contact your bank about it right away to cancel affected cards and issue new ones that add an extra layer of protection under their insurance policy.
- Lastly, make sure to change your details with companies that provide your personal information, such as phone or utility providers. This is a necessary step to prevent them from having access to any more of your information. Also, running an accurate background check on yourself is an effective way to find out what personal information of yours has been compromised or leaked online.
These are just some of the common tips for preventing smishing attempts. There are many other great suggestions out there that can be found by using your favorite search engine. Unfortunately, these days cybersecurity is a major issue that people have to deal with on a daily basis, and it’s vital to be aware of how to prevent being Smished in order not to become another statistic.