What Can an SMS do to Perpetrate a Phishing Attack?

SMS phishing or Smishing is the practice of using text messages to trick someone into handing over personal information or downloading malware in an attempt to steal money or personal information.


SMS phishing or Smishing is the practice of using text messages to trick someone into handing over personal information or downloading malware in an attempt to steal money or personal information. Text message scams are similar to phishing in that they aim to acquire sensitive information, such as credit card numbers, by pretending to be a trustworthy business or person in a text message.

The sender of the text message asks the receiver to provide personal information by sending a link to a fraudulent website that looks exactly like the authentic one. To give the impression that the messages are coming from a reputable company or firm, fake information is frequently used in their drafting.

Due to the widespread usage of smartphones, smishing has increased in favour of hackers. It allows them to steal important personal or financial information without having to compromise a computer or network's security defences. There is a growing public awareness of phishing, smishing, and other attacks because of the increasing number of events that make the headlines.

According to the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), the number of people who have fallen victim to online fraud, smishing, vishing (phishing via phone, where a hacker calls or leaves a voicemail), and pharming (where a hacker leads users to a false website in order to acquire sensitive information) will reach over 240,000 by 2020, costing over $54 million. To put that into perspective, in the same report from 2020, the total number of malware and virus attacks that were reported was just more than 1,400, and the total amount of money lost was only about $7 million.

How Does SMS Phishing Work?

How Does SMS Phishing Work?

Every single SMS phishing attack is built on a foundation of misinformation and fraudulent activity. As the attacker takes on a persona that you are more likely to believe, you will have a higher tendency to comply with their demands.

Smishing is a form of social engineering in which an attacker attempts to persuade a victim into changing their decision-making process. The motivations behind this fraud can be broken down into three categories:

Sending context-based SMSes: An effective disguise can be constructed by an attacker by using a scenario that may be of interest to their targets. Since the letter appears to have been written specifically for the recipient, it is easier to disregard any concerns that it could be spam.

Impersonation of reputable companies: Cybercriminals are able to trick their targets into trusting them more easily by impersonating respectable individuals and organisations. Since SMS texts are a more personal communication medium, they have the natural effect of lowering a person's defences when they are exposed to threats.

Emotional Manipulation: Attackers can thwart the critical thinking of their victims by manipulating their emotions, causing them to act more quickly and carelessly.

By asking the recipient to visit a phishing website via a text link, attackers often hope that the recipient would enter their personal information. A phishing software typically takes the shape of a website or app, both of which mask their true identities and pose as legitimate sources of information.

Many factors go into the selection of targets, but the most common is their association with an organisation or proximity to a particular geographic region. It is possible to target people who work at a specific company or are consumers of that company, as well as mobile network subscribers, students at a particular university, and even local inhabitants.

Types of SMS Phishing Attacks

Types of SMS Phishing Attacks

Invoice or Order Confirmation SMS

Confirmation smishing is the practice of confirming a recent order or billing invoice for a service by sending a fake confirmation message. A follow-up link may be supplied to spark your interest or encourage you to take immediate action. A succession of order confirmation SMSes or the omission of a business name is also possible indicators that you have been victimised by this scam.

Customer Support Department Phishing

Attackers who engage in customer support smishing will pretend to be a trusted representative of the company in order to assist you in resolving a problem. High-profile technology and e-commerce firms like Apple, Google, and Amazon serve as excellent guises for would-be intruders.

Attackers frequently say there is a problem with your account, and then offer instructions for resolving it. The request could be as easy as using a fake login page, or it could be as complex as asking you for a real account recovery number in an attempt to change your password. Both of these methods are intended to steal your personal information.

Giveaway SMS Phishing

The promise of a free product or a service from a well-known business or other company is referred to as gift smishing. These can take the form of shopping rewards, giveaway contests, or any number of other types of free offers. When an attacker attempts to heighten your excitement by bringing up the possibility of ‘free’, they are employing a logic override in the hope of hastening your response time.

Financial SMS Phishing 

In order to commit financial fraud, an attacker disguises themselves as a bank or other type of financial institution. An urgent request to access your account to verify suspicious activity on your account, and other red flags, may be indicators that you are the victim of a smishing scam involving financial services.

How to Prevent Being a Victim of SMS Phishing

How to Prevent Being a Victim of SMS Phishing

You can protect yourself from SMS phishing scams by remembering a few things:

  • Avoid giving any kind of response. Unsubscribe instructions that ask for a response like ‘STOP’ as these can also be used to identify active mobile numbers. It is the attackers' hope that you will interact because you are curious or worried about the issue.
  • When you receive an urgent communication, please slow down. You need to be on the lookout for potential phishing attempts if there is an urgent account update or a time-sensitive offer. Maintain your scepticism, and move forward with caution.
  • In case of uncertainty, contact the bank or merchant immediately. Text messages are not used by legitimate organisations to request account information or login credentials. In addition, any time there is an important announcement, you will be able to check it directly on your online accounts or by calling an official phone helpline.
  • Verify that the number is correct. Email-to-text services may be indicated by phone numbers that have an unusual appearance, such as those with only four digits. There are a variety of ways scammers hide their real phone numbers, and this is only one of them.
  • Choose not to save credit card details on your phone at any time. Never placing sensitive financial information in a digital wallet is the most effective strategy to prevent such information from being taken by an unauthorised party.
  • Integrate additional layers of security by using multi-factor authentication (MFA). Smishing attackers may still have no use for a compromised password if the account requires a second ‘key’ for verification. Two-factor authentication, also known as 2FA, is the most prevalent variation of multi-factor authentication (MFA), and it typically involves receiving a verification code through a text message. Stronger variations include the use of a dedicated app for authentication (such as Google Authenticator).
  • Under no circumstances should you ever send a recovery code or password to an account by text message. Passwords and recovery codes for two-factor authentication (2FA) sent by text message are both vulnerable to fraud if they fall into the wrong hands. Never reveal this information to anybody, and be sure that you only use it on official websites.
  • As a rule of thumb, companies need to make sure their staff is aware of the risks posed by smishing. Employees have a stronger ability to spot potential threats, avoid them, and report them when they have received training in user security awareness. These threats can damage crucial data and network systems. Simulations of phishing, smishing and other types of attacks are frequently utilised to assess and reinforce appropriate conduct as part of the training process.
  • You can defend yourself from harmful texts and links by using a competent antivirus app, but there's no replacement for keeping a watchful eye. As people who use mobile devices, we have the ability to safeguard ourselves and inform our friends and loved ones about the strategies that scammers are employing to take advantage of other people.

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