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Smishing Attacks Explained

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July 5, 2023

As our digital world continues to evolve, so do the methods employed by cybercriminals. Smishing attacks, a cunning form of phishing, have emerged as a prevalent threat targeting individuals through their smartphones. In this article, we will explore the world of smishing attacks, understanding their nature and types, as well as providing essential tips to defend against them.

 

What is a Smishing Attack?

 

Smishing attacks, a term derived from “SMS phishing,” are a deceptive technique employed by cyber attackers to exploit the trust users place in text messages. With the widespread use of smartphones, which can receive messages from any number globally, smishing has become a growing concern.

 

How do Smishing Atacks Work?

 

Smishing attacks operate in a similar manner to email phishing, but with the use of text messages as the primary medium. The attacker initiates the attack by sending a text message to the targeted user, enticing them to take certain actions that compromise their private information.

The type of information sought by attackers can vary, ranging from online account credentials to personal details that can be used for identity theft, as well as financial data that can be sold on darknet markets or used for fraudulent activities.

To make their messages more convincing, smishers often gather basic information about the target from public online sources. By incorporating the target’s name and location in the message, they create a sense of familiarity and trust. The message typically includes a link that directs the user to a server controlled by the attacker. This link might lead to a fake website designed to trick the user into revealing their credentials, or it could deploy malware capable of compromising the user’s smartphone.

Social engineering techniques are frequently employed alongside smishing attacks. The attacker might even make a phone call to the user, requesting private information, before sending a text message that capitalises on the obtained data.

While mobile operating systems have built-in security features that can thwart malware, these defences cannot fully protect users who willingly provide their data to unknown sources. Therefore, it is essential for individuals to exercise caution and refrain from sharing sensitive information with unverified numbers or clicking on suspicious links in text messages.

 

What are Examples of Types of Smishing Attacks?

 

Phishing SMS: Attackers send text messages posing as legitimate organisations, such as banks, asking recipients to provide personal information or click on malicious links.

Fake Prize or Lottery: Messages claiming that the recipient has won a prize or a lottery, and they need to provide personal information or pay a fee to claim it.

Financial Scams: Messages attempting to trick users into providing banking or credit card details, often by posing as a financial institution or service.

Urgent Action Required: Messages that create a sense of urgency, claiming that the recipient’s account has been compromised or needs immediate attention, and they must provide personal information to resolve the issue.

Malware Delivery: Text messages containing links or attachments that, when clicked or downloaded, install malware on the recipient’s device, giving attackers unauthorised access.

Charity Scams: Messages requesting donations for a charitable cause or disaster relief, aiming to exploit people’s generosity and trick them into providing financial information.

App Download Scams: Messages that prompt users to download a malicious app, often disguised as a popular or legitimate application, which can compromise the user’s device.

Social Engineering Attacks: Messages using psychological manipulation to deceive users into revealing sensitive information, such as passwords or account credentials.

OTP (One-Time Password) Scams: Messages tricking users into providing the one-time password they receive via SMS, typically for financial transactions, allowing attackers to gain unauthorised access.

 

How to Defend Against Smishing Attacks?

 

Stay Informed: Educate yourself about smishing attacks and the common tactics employed by scammers. Stay updated on the latest trends, techniques, and indicators of a potential smishing attempt.

Verify the Sender: Be cautious when receiving messages from unknown or suspicious sources. Verify the identity of the sender by cross-checking phone numbers, email addresses, or official contact details with the legitimate organization.

Avoid Sharing Personal Information: Legitimate organisations rarely request sensitive data, such as social security numbers, passwords, or credit card details, via text messages. Avoid providing such information unless you have independently confirmed the legitimacy of the request.

Be Wary of Links and Attachments: Avoid clicking on links or opening attachments from unknown sources. These may lead to malicious websites or initiate the installation of harmful software on your device.

Use Strong Security Measures: Keep your smartphone’s operating system, apps, and antivirus software up to date. Enable two-factor authentication for your online accounts to add an extra layer of security.

Trust Your Instincts: If a message seems suspicious or too good to be true, trust your gut instincts. If you suspect a smishing attempt, do not respond or engage with the sender.

 

Why Choose Eventura as your Cybersecurity Partner?

 

With over 20 years experience in cybersecurity, we know our stuff. Our team of cybersecurity experts can complete a full audit of your business and identify any areas of weakness, which could leave you vulnerable to cyberattacks.

We were even mentioned in the Governments National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) Annual Review 2020 when we were chosen to test their “Exercise in a Box” designed to help small businesses prepare and respond to cyberthreats. You can read the article here.

There is a common misconception that cyberattacks don’t happen to SMEs but this couldn’t be further from the truth. With our expert knowledge, we can help you protect your business’s future from the ever increasing threat of cybercriminals.

If you would like to speak to one of our cybersecurity experts or request a cybersecurity audit, you can request a free call back here.

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