Smishing attack - What is it?
What is smishing in cyber security?
The simplest Smishing definition is an SMS-based phishing threat. It involves sending SMS intending to steal critical personal/professional/financial information from the receiver or to install malicious content on the aimed target. That’s why experts also refer to it as SMS phishing.
Depending upon the expertise of the cyber-criminal carrying out the attack, it can also lead to money extraction from the target. If we talk about Smishing v/s phishing victim-trapping strategies, the former uses an SMS while the latter utilizes an email.
Smishing Attack in Action
The main elements that determine the success of Smishing are a betrayal of trust and trickery. The attacker imitates a trusted source, and when the target trusts the cybercriminal, s/he betrays it. A slight variation of phishing, it naturally has social engineering methodology at its core. Learn - What is social engineering?
- Winning Trust
The hacker/attacker takes the disguise of a trusted or legitimate resource, person, or business. For instance, attackers claim to be a banking professional, representative of a governmental organization, or someone from the employer’s side.
- Creating a context
At this stage, the cybercriminals fabricate an emergency that demands immediate action.
The SMS text is created in such a way that it makes the target vulnerable. With the mention of situations such as instant loan approval, verification to prevent account blocking, sharing details to claim a huge gift, and many more, attackers try to override the target’s critical thinking ability. When it happens, persuasion becomes easy.
Once the prey falls into the trap, threat actor succeeds. When selecting a target, attackers usually get the contact (phone) details from third parties, other hackers, or use the previously stolen user information.
SMS are shared in bulk to increase the conversion rate.
To keep the identity hidden and avoid tracking, hackers use spoofing. Cheap and easy-to-dispose, Burner phones are used, because such phones are often disposed once the hacker succeeds.
Types of smishing attack
The recent-most type, it involves free COVID aid, mandatory Coronavirus testing, sharing personal information of contact tracing, and so on.
- Bank’s Text Message
Almost everyone owns a bank account, so it is easy to trick inattentive people through such message.
Cybercriminals know that people take immediate actions when an update or information is coming from their banks. We all are vulnerable when it comes to bank-related information. So, we might hand over essential details to attackers if fooled.
- Invitations to take the survey
The most common Smishing example is an invitation to participate in a survey. It involves clicking on a click. The link can redirect you to a corrupted website or contain malware.
- MFA codes
As OTP-based verification is the most commonly used MFA technique. They were a few incidents seen where hackers followed this method, recently.
- Order confirmation
In this type of Smishing attack, an SMS asking for handing over personal details or clicking on a particular like is used to complete a fake order confirmation.
- Lottery Winning Message
SMSs mentioning a huge lottery prize are circulated amongst the crowd. To claim the prize, one has to either provide bank details or click on a link.
How to Prevent Smishing?
To deal with it, you can try these simple yet effective methods:
- Don’t respond if the message is coming from a spam number
Telecom companies are also aware of this attack and have started reporting a number as spam if a number is involved in bulk SMS posting. So, when you receive an SMS from a spam number, don’t respond to it.
- Don’t take immediate actions
SMS claiming to take immediate actions is most commonly a Smishing attack. Take your time to verify the information if it’s about a gift or coupon. Verify from trusted sources. For instance, if an SMS is stating that you have a $1,000 coupon from Amazon, contact customer care and crosscheck the information. If it’s what the SMS claims, customer care will verify that.
- Use an anti-virus software
Mostly, people don’t have anti-viruses installed on mobile phones. But, they should as it will scan the presence of any malicious link or content in your mobile phone and will keep you safe.
To make sure your critical information is not shared over a click, use MFA.