PREVENTING SMISHING | SMS PHISHING | SECURIUM AWARE

Smishing Definition

Smishing” is a portmanteau of “SMS” (Short Message Service) and “phishing.” It refers to a form of cyberattack where attackers use SMS text messages to deceive and trick individuals into divulging sensitive information, performing actions, or clicking on malicious links. Smishing in cyber security comes under the category of Social Engineering attacks.

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The process of smishing usually involves sending text messages that appear to be from legitimate sources, such as banks, government agencies, or well-known companies. The messages often contain urgent or alarming content, such as warnings about account security, suspicious transactions, or prizes/awards, to create a sense of urgency or curiosity in the recipient. Some common techniques involved in smishing phishing scams:

Smishing relies heavily on social engineering, which involves manipulating human psychology to exploit trust, fear, urgency, or curiosity. Scammers use carefully crafted messages to create a sense of urgency, making recipients believe immediate action is necessary.

Scammers often use techniques to spoof the sender information to make the text message appear as if it is coming from a legitimate source. This can include using familiar names or disguising the sender’s phone number.

Smishing messages frequently contain urgent or alarming content, such as security alerts, account lockouts, or suspicious activities on an account. The urgency is meant to prompt the recipient to act quickly without thinking critically.

Some smishing messages may include personal information about the recipient, making the message appear more authentic. The inclusion of your name or partial account details may deceive you into thinking the message is from a legitimate source.

Scammers often use URL shorteners to hide the actual destination of a link in the text message. Victims may be enticed to click on shortened links that lead to phishing websites or websites hosting malware.

Smishing messages may direct recipients to fake websites that closely resemble legitimate ones, such as online banking portals or social media login pages. These websites are designed to steal login credentials and other sensitive information.

Scammers frequently capitalize on trending topics or current events, such as natural disasters, public health emergencies, or major news stories, to create plausible scenarios and increase the likelihood of victims falling for the Smishing scam.

Smishing messages often pretend to be from reputable organizations like banks, government agencies, or well-known companies. By impersonating trusted Smishing messages often pretend to be from reputable organizations like banks, government agencies, or well-known companies. By impersonating trusted entities, scammers aim to gain credibility and make recipients more likely to comply with their requests.

Scammers lure victims with promises of winning prizes, gift cards, or exclusive rewards. These enticing offers can make recipients overlook suspicious elements in the message and take action without proper scrutiny.

Some smishing messages threaten recipients with legal action or negative consequences if they don’t comply with the request. This tactic plays on the fear of legal repercussions to make recipients more likely to act hastily.

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End Goal of Smishing

The main goals of smishing attacks are :

  • Obtaining Personal Information: Attackers may try to trick recipients into providing sensitive personal information, such as usernames, passwords, social security numbers, credit card details, or other confidential data.
  • Delivering Malware: The text messages may contain links that lead to websites hosting malware or malicious apps, which can be used to compromise the recipient’s device or steal data.
  • To make someone do a favour for hackers: Smishing messages may aim to manipulate the recipient into taking specific actions, such as transferring money to fraudulent accounts or clicking on malicious links that lead to phishing websites.
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Real World Examples of Smishing

Some real-world examples of smishing scams reported in the news are:

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Fake Package Delivery Smishing Scams

Scammers have sent text messages claiming to be from well-known delivery services like FedEx, UPS, or DHL. The messages inform recipients of an undelivered package and request them to click on a link or provide personal information to reschedule the delivery. These links often lead to phishing websites or malware. Stay vigilant against phishing scams, which employ cunning tactics to manipulate individuals into divulging confidential data, often through deceptive emails and websites

COVID-19 Vaccine Smishing Scams

During the COVID-19 pandemic, there were reports of SMS phishing scams  claiming to offer early access to vaccines or registration for vaccination appointments. People were urged to click on links or provide personal information, leading to potential identity theft or the downloading of malware.

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IRS Tax Smishing Scams

Scammers have sent text messages pretending to be from the IRS, warning recipients of pending legal actions or tax-related issues. The messages prompt users to call a specific number or click on a link to resolve the matter, but the intention is to steal personal information or extort money. Beware of phishing scams that attempt to deceive you into revealing sensitive information through fraudulent emails or websites

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Apple ID Verification Smishing Scams

Some SMS phishing has impersonated Apple, informing users that their Apple ID has been locked or needs verification. The messages prompt users to click on a link to resolve the issue, but the link leads to a phishing website that aims to steal Apple ID credentials.

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Lottery or Prize Smishing Scams

SMS phishing messages have been used to notify recipients of winning a lottery or prize they never entered. To claim the prize, the recipients are asked to provide personal information or pay fees, but there is no actual prize.

Smishing Precautions

To protect yourself from smishing attacks, consider the following tips:

1. Be Skeptical: If you receive an unsolicited text message with urgent requests or offers that seem too good to be true, be cautious and don’t immediately trust the message’s content.

2. Verify the Source: If you receive a message claiming to be from a legitimate organization, verify its authenticity by contacting the organization directly using their official contact details (not the ones provided in the message).

3. Don’t Click on Suspicious Links: Avoid clicking on links from unknown or suspicious sources, especially in text messages. Hover over links (without clicking) to see the actual URL and verify its legitimacy.

4. Protect Personal Information: Never share sensitive information via text message or any other communication channel unless you are certain about the recipient’s identity and trustworthiness.

5. Use Security Software: Keep your mobile device’s operating system, apps, and security software up to date to protect against known vulnerabilities and threats.

6. Report Suspicious Messages: If you receive a suspicious smishing message, report it to your mobile carrier and consider forwarding it to the appropriate authorities.

By staying vigilant and following these guidelines, you can reduce the risk of falling victim to smishing attacks.

Frequently Asked Question about Smishing

Smishing, short for “SMS phishing,” refers to a type of cyber attack where scammers use text messages to trick individuals into revealing sensitive information or performing actions that compromise their security.

While both smishing and phishing aim to deceive individuals into sharing information, smishing attacks occur through text messages (SMS), whereas phishing often involves fraudulent emails or websites.

Given that it tends to be the most convincing to the end-user, this may be the most typical kind of smishing fraud. For instance, it is immediately suspicious if you receive an SMS asking for sensitive information like usernames or passwords.

Smishing attackers may send fake alerts, offers, or urgent messages to create a sense of urgency. They might impersonate legitimate organizations and request personal data or direct recipients to malicious websites.

Not all text messages are smishing attacks, but it’s important to be cautious of unsolicited messages, especially those containing urgent requests or links to unfamiliar websites.

  • Be skeptical of unsolicited messages, even if they seem urgent.
  • Avoid clicking on links or downloading attachments from unknown sources.
  • Verify the sender’s identity before responding or taking any action.
  • Educate yourself and your colleagues about smishing tactics and how to stay safe.

If you receive a suspicious text message:

  • Do not reply or click on any links.
  • Avoid sharing personal or financial information.
  • Report the message to your mobile carrier and the organization being impersonated.
  • Delete the message from your device.

Attackers may obtain phone numbers through various means, including data breaches, online directories, social media, and even purchasing lists from the dark web.

Smishing attacks in UAE targeting businesses can lead to data breaches, financial losses, damage to reputation, and operational disruptions. It’s crucial for organizations to educate their employees about smishing threats.

Education plays a significant role in preventing smishing attacks in India By learning to recognize the signs of smishing and understanding common tactics, individuals can better protect themselves and their personal information.