what-is-smishing attacks
  • Arun Chaudhary
  • Last Updated: 29 Apr 22
  • 9 min read

What is Smishing? How to Defend SMS Phishing Cybersecurity Attacks?

  • Arun Chaudhary
  • Last Updated: 29 Apr 22
  • 9 min read

We enjoy the convenience technology brings to our lives, but it also comes with some risks. We are becoming increasingly aware of cyber scams such as SMS phishing also called smishing, which makes it important to recognize suspicious activity.

Find out how you can protect yourself and your family from Smishing scams in this blog. Stay at the end of the post to know the advanced tips and tricks to protect your personal and professional life from smishing attacks.

What is Smishing?

Smishing, or SMS attacks, are cyberattacks made via text message or SMS text-messaging spam that occur on many platforms, including non-SMS and mobile app-based data-messaging channels.

Smishing is a type of SMS-phishing attack in which you receive a mysterious message requesting money from you to pay a bill or assist a friend who is in need.

A scammer might also attempt to gain access to your bank details, credit card information, email addresses, and more with the help of a fraudulent or malware website.

Scammers are typically interested in stealing funds, but may also attempt to steal identities.
Smishing, in its most basic form, is any phishing involving text messages. This type of phishing involves sending a text message through an SMS or phoning a number in many cases.

In light of the fact that people are sometimes more inclined to trust a text message rather than an email, SMS fishing is rather scary.

Almost everyone is aware of the risks associated with clicking on links in emails. However, this is not the case when it comes to text messages.

Also Read: How To Secure Yourself From Cloud Telephony Security Threats & Issues?

How Does SMISHING Work?

Text-message scamming uses social-engineering techniques to trick recipients into revealing personal or financial information.

Scammers rely heavily on deception and fraud to carry out their schemes. Due to the attacker using the alias of a trustworthy individual, they are more likely to receive your response.

In all sorts of social engineering attacks, there are three things in common, and they are:

Trust: When cybercriminals assume the identity of a legitimate person or organization, their targets are less skeptical. Text messages are also less protective against threats because they are more personal.

Context: The attacker can create a convincing disguise by utilizing a situation relevant to the targets. The message feels personal, which counters any suspicions that it could be spam.

Emotion: An attacker can override a target’s critical thinking by heightening their emotions, which results in a quicker response.

For example, when the holidays are approaching, you may get a text message from an unknown retailer asking you to verify your billing information, or your package won’t make it to your loved one in time.

Unfortunately, the fake text message will provide you with a fake website link, allowing identity theft, fraud, and other crimes to occur if you click the link.

Malware and spyware can also be distributed via Smishing via links or attachments that steal information and perform other malicious tasks.

There is usually some threat, urgency, or warning in messages to get the recipient to act immediately.

Also Read: What is Vishing? How to safeguard yourself from Vishing Attacks?

Common Smishing Attacks

1. Bank Smishing

Scammers use the claim that your bank account has been hacked to trick you into acting, when in fact, it is simply a hacking attempt on your bank account.

In most cases, you’ll receive a text message claiming to be from your bank. The purpose of this message is to alert you to security breaches, or that a large transfer has taken place, or that a new payment recipient has been added to your account.

In response, you’ll be prompted to click on a link, call a phone number, or reply with your PIN or login credentials. These instructions and prompts should not be followed under any circumstances.

Instead of following the instructions and prompts, contact your bank to verify the account status.

2. Support-Center Smishing

A customer support smishing involves the attacker appearing to be a trusted company representative and helping you resolve an issue. Companies like Apple, Google, and Amazon, and other large and well-known technology companies are excellent targets for attacks on this premise.

In typical attacks, a scammer will tell you about a problem with your account profile and may provide you with the necessary steps and guidance to resolve it.

An example of a simple request is going to a fraudulent login page, whereas a more sophisticated scam will attempt to reset your password by sending a real account recovery code.

In this kind of scam, you might encounter billing issues, problems gaining access to your account, change inactivity, or difficulties resolving complaints.

3. Malware Smishing

Malware smishing is just as damaging, although it does not occur as often as bank smishing. Occasionally, you will receive a text urging you to download something onto your phone, like an app.

Although this app appears to be from a trusted source, it can harvest sensitive details from your phone, such as credit card numbers from other apps.

Scammers often use email to pass along their messages but can now also do this over the phone. Don’t trust anything you download unless you are sure it’s from a trusted source.

4. Gift Smishing

Many scammers promise free goods and services from reputable organizations or retailers. There are many free offers available, including giveaway contests, shopping rewards, and many others.

Attackers use the word “free” as a psychological weapon to entice you into taking action quicker by sucking up to all your excitement. A limited-time offer and gift card selection are usually part of these attacks.

5. COVID-19 Smishing

This is one of the most popular fishing campaigns used by scammers today. This type of Smishing is conducted by scammers imitating legitimate aid programs run by healthcare providers and government agencies to aid those who have suffered the pandemic’s misery.

Attackers have used these schemes to manipulate their victims’ health and make them afraid of committing fraud. Here are some of the signs to watch out for:

  • Request sensitive information (credit card number, social security number, login details, etc.) via contact tracing.
  • Financial relief through tax-based measures such as stimulus checks.
  • Safety updates regarding public health.
  • A request for an update to the U.S. Census.

How to Know If You’re Being Smished?

The first indication is receiving a text message from an unknown number. Be sure to read the message carefully.

It could be as simple as pushing a link to a website, or it could be as personal as asking for personal information.

You might be asked to verify some information or told you won a contest that you didn’t enter. However, text messages are not a way to request personal information, regardless of what the message says.

Anti Smishing: How to Protect from Smishing Attacks?

The targeted user can identify, ignore, or report a smishing attack, just like an email phishing campaign.

In cases where a virtual phone number is commonly used for scams, telecom providers may warn users or block users from receiving messages from such numbers entirely.

But you should always know that SMS phishing only poses a threat when the targeted user clicks the link or provides personal information to the attacker.

Here are some tips to avoid being scammed through Smishing Attacks:

1. Never Respond to The Suspicious Message

There are times when you receive messages offering quick money once you enter your personal information.

Other times, you might as well receive discount coupon codes that you can use to make purchases. Considering that scammers use some of the most common methods, you should be very cautious when responding to such messages.

Do not bother responding if there is anything unusual you suspect about the message.

2. Slow Down

When scammers target their victims, they usually create a situation such as account updates or low-time offers to create an urgency for their targeted users.

When they do so, these people will be tempted to take immediate action, which you shouldn’t do. Consequently, you will be scammed.

Thus, it is important to remain skeptical and proceed carefully whenever you are confronted with these situations.

3. Report Immediately

Legitimate institutions will never request account updates or login credentials through text. In addition, you can check any urgent notices directly through your online account or via phone support.

Hence, if you are doubtful about the message you have received, you should report the message to the appropriate authorities right away to stop the message from being spoofed.

4. Avoid Clicking on Links.

You should avoid using links or contact information in messages because they may redirect you to fraudulent websites and capture your personal information. During such times, you can reach out to official channels and then act accordingly.

5. Double-Check the Phone Number

Fraudsters often send spam messages using fake numbers, and it is common for them to use odd-looking numbers, such as four-digit ones, to mask their real phone number.

You should not respond to such texts, especially if your suspicions about the message and the phone number you have received the text are high.

6. Use Multi-factor Authentication (MFA)

Smishing attackers may not exploit an exposed password if the compromised account requires another “key” for verification.

Two-factor authentication (2FA) is the most common MFA variant, often used to send SMS confirmation codes.

You can also use an app that facilitates the process (like Google Authenticator). It is very important to remember that Smishing is a crime of trickery, just like email phishing.

Essentially, it is a method of convincing the victim to cooperate by clicking on a link or filling out information.

The easiest way to protect against these attacks is to do nothing, and malicious texts cannot do anything when you do not respond to them.

Bottom Line

Smishing is common and you also faced it in your daily digital activities. Scammers can also send your personalized and customized spammy messages. If you follow the above tips then you can protect your data from smishing attacks.

Arun Chaudhary
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