Smishing is a type of phishing attack. Phishing attacks have become more sophisticated and harder to detect. Cybercriminals use advanced techniques, including social engineering and personalized attacks, making it challenging for individuals to distinguish between legitimate and malicious communications. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the adoption of remote work, leading to an expanded attack surface. Cybercriminals took advantage of this shift, targeting individuals working from home who may have different security measures compared to office environments.
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What is Smishing in cyber security?
“Smishing” is a term that refers to a type of phishing attack conducted through SMS (Short Message Service) or text messages on mobile phones. It is a form of social engineering where attackers use deceptive tactics to trick individuals into divulging sensitive information, clicking on malicious links, or taking other actions that could compromise their personal or financial security.
Key characteristics of smishing include:
1. Text Messages: Smishing attacks involve the use of text messages, typically sent to a large number of mobile phone users. These messages may appear to come from a legitimate source, such as a bank, government agency, or service provider.
2. Deceptive Content: The content of smishing messages is crafted to deceive recipients. This may involve urgent messages claiming account issues, security alerts, or enticing offers, designed to prompt the recipient to take immediate action.
3. Links and Phone Numbers: Smishing messages often include links to fraudulent websites or phone numbers that, when called, connect to automated voice systems attempting to extract sensitive information.
4. Spoofing: Attackers may use techniques to spoof or mimic the sender’s information, making it appear as though the message is coming from a trusted source.
5. Phishing for Information: The ultimate goal of smishing is to trick individuals into providing sensitive information, such as usernames, passwords, credit card details, or other personal information.
How does smishing work?
Smishing attacks typically operate similarly to email phishing, employing a blend of technological manipulation and psychological tactics to mislead individuals. The following steps delineate the overall procedure:
1. Target Selection: Cybercriminals choose their targets. This selection can be random, using a broad list of phone numbers, or more specific, targeting individuals based on data obtained from previous breaches or information sold on the dark web.
2. Crafting the Message: The attackers create a deceptive text message that invokes a specific emotion or reaction, such as urgency, fear, or curiosity. This message typically includes a call to action, like clicking a link or calling a number.
3. Message Delivery: Using SMS gateways, spoofing tools, or infected devices, the attacker sends out the smishing message to their selected targets.
4. Interaction: When the message is received, it induces the recipient to act, which may involve clicking on a supplied link, responding with personal information, or dialing a designated phone number.
5. Use of Stolen Information: Armed with the acquired information, the attacker can employ it for a range of malicious activities, including identity theft, unauthorized transactions, selling the data on the black market, or launching additional targeted attacks.
Types of Smishing Attacks
Smishing attacks can take various forms, and attackers use different tactics to trick individuals into revealing sensitive information or taking malicious actions. Here are some common types of smishing attacks:
1. Fake Prize or Contest Smishing: In this type of smishing attack, individuals receive text messages claiming that they have won a prize or entered a contest. To claim the prize, they are asked to provide personal information or click on a link that leads to a phishing site.
2. Financial Scam Smishing: Attackers may impersonate banks, credit card companies, or other financial institutions. The smishing text may warn about unauthorized transactions or account issues, prompting recipients to click on a link to resolve the supposed problem. The link usually leads to a phishing site.
3. Security Alert Smishing: Individuals may receive fake security alerts via text messages, claiming that their accounts have been compromised or that they need to update their security settings. The goal is to trick them into providing login credentials or other sensitive information.
4. Government or Tax Agency Impersonation: Attackers may impersonate government agencies or tax authorities, sending messages about issues with taxes or legal matters. Recipients are urged to click on a link or provide personal information for resolution.
5. Package Delivery Smishing: With the increasing prevalence of online shopping, attackers may send smishing messages claiming to be from package delivery services. The text may ask recipients to click on a link for delivery details, leading to a phishing site.
6. Social Engineering Smishing: Some smishing attacks use social engineering techniques to manipulate individuals emotionally. For example, attackers may send messages claiming to be a friend in distress, seeking urgent assistance or financial support.
7. App Download Smishing: Attackers may send messages encouraging individuals to download a particular app for exclusive offers or services. However, the app may contain malware or be used to steal sensitive information from the device.
8. Voice Message Smishing: In this type of attack, individuals receive text messages claiming to be voicemail notifications. The message contains a link to listen to the supposed voicemail, but clicking on the link may lead to a phishing site or the installation of malicious software.
Phishing vs Vishing vs Smishing
Channel: Phishing attacks typically occur through email. However, they can also involve other communication channels, such as instant messaging or social media.
Method: Attackers send fraudulent messages, often posing as legitimate entities like banks or government agencies. These messages contain links to fake websites, where victims are prompted to enter sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, or credit card details.
Channel: Vishing attacks use voice communication, often over the phone (voice calls).
Method: Attackers may call individuals, posing as legitimate entities, and attempt to extract sensitive information through voice interactions. Vishing can also involve leaving recorded voice messages instructing individuals to call a specific number and provide sensitive information.
Channel: Smishing attacks occur through SMS or text messages.
Method: Attackers send text messages that appear to be from trusted sources, such as banks or government agencies. These messages contain links or phone numbers, urging recipients to click on the links or call the numbers to provide sensitive information or take other malicious actions.
Examples of Smishing Attack
1. The message urgently claiming that your bank account is locked, often associated with smishing.
2. The smishing message indicating unusual account activity, falsely stating that clicking is required to secure your information, when, in fact, the opposite is the case.
3. The smishing attack that tricks you into believing you’ve won a prize and prompts you to click for claiming it.
4. The smishing attack involving an urgent message regarding your credit card.
How to identify a smishing attack?
Identifying such an attack requires a combination of vigilance, skepticism, and awareness of common tactics used by attackers. Here are some tips to help you recognize and protect yourself from smishing attacks:
1. Check the Sender’s Number: Verify the sender’s phone number. Legitimate organizations usually have official phone numbers, and smishing messages often come from unfamiliar or suspicious numbers.
2. Be Wary of Unsolicited Messages: If you receive a text message from an unknown sender or one you did not expect, exercise caution. These attacks often involve unsolicited messages.
3. Look for Urgency or Threats: Smishing messages often create a sense of urgency or convey a threat to prompt immediate action. Be skeptical of messages claiming that your account will be suspended, or there is an emergency that requires your attention.
4. Check for Generic Greetings: Generic or non-personalized greetings can be a red flag. Legitimate messages from reputable organizations usually address you by name.
5. Verify the Sender’s Identity: Before taking any action, verify the sender’s identity. Use official contact information from the organization’s website or other trusted sources, not the contact details provided in the text message.
6. Examine the Content: Look for spelling and grammar mistakes. Smishing messages often contain errors that can help you identify them as fraudulent.
7. Avoid Clicking on Links: Do not click on links in text messages unless you are certain of the sender’s legitimacy. Hover over links (if on a computer) to preview the URL without actually clicking on it.
8. Check for Spoofed Numbers: These attacks may use techniques to spoof or fake the sender’s number, making it appear as though the message is coming from a trusted source. However, some smishing messages may also come from unfamiliar numbers.
9. Use Security Software: Install security software on your mobile device. Some security apps can detect and block smishing attempts.
10. Trust Your Instincts: If something feels off or too good to be true, it probably is. Trust your instincts and avoid taking actions that may compromise your personal information.
How to protect yourself from smishing attack?
There are a few things to keep in mind that will help you protect yourself against these attacks.
1. Do not respond: Even requests to respond, such as texting ‘STOP’ to unsubscribe, might serve as a ploy to ascertain active phone numbers. Attackers capitalize on your curiosity or anxiety about the situation, but you have the option to decline participation.
2. Slow down if a message is urgent: You should approach urgent account updates and limited time offers as caution signs of possible smishing. Remain skeptical and proceed carefully.
3. If in doubt, contact your bank or merchant directly: Genuine institutions do not ask for account updates or login information through text messages. Additionally, any urgent notifications can be verified directly through your online accounts or by using an official phone helpline
4. Avoid using any links or contact info in the message: Avoid using links or contact info in messages that make you uncomfortable. Go directly to official contact channels when you can.
5. Check the phone number: Odd-looking phone numbers, such as 4-digit ones, can be evidence of email-to-text services. This is one of many tactics a scammer can use to mask their true phone number.
6. Opt to never keep credit card numbers on your phone: The best way to keep financial information from being stolen from a digital wallet is to never put it there.
7. Use multi-factor authentication (MFA): An exposed password may still be useless to a smishing attacker if the account being breached requires a second “key” for verification. MFA’s most common variant is two-factor authentication (2FA), which often uses a text message verification code. Stronger variants include using a dedicated app for verification (like Google Authenticator) are available.
8. Never provide a password or account recovery code via text: Both passwords and text message two-factor authentication (2FA) recovery codes can compromise your account in the wrong hands. Never give this information to anyone, and only use it on official sites.
9. Download an anti-malware app.
10. Report all SMS phishing attempts to designated authorities.
Being aware of smishing attacks is crucial as they pose a significant threat to personal and financial security. Smishing involves deceptive text messages aimed at tricking individuals into revealing sensitive information or clicking on malicious links. To protect oneself, it is important to:
1. Stay Informed: Understand the tactics used in smishing attacks, such as urgent messages, false prizes, or alarming account notifications.
2. Verify Sources: Confirm the legitimacy of any unexpected messages by directly contacting the supposed sender using official contact information, rather than relying on contact details provided in the message.
3. Avoid Clicking Links: Refrain from clicking on links or downloading attachments in suspicious messages. Instead, visit official websites by typing the URL directly into the browser.
4. Educate Others: Share information about smishing attacks with friends and family to collectively enhance awareness and reduce the risk of falling victim to such scams.
By staying vigilant, verifying messages, and adopting security measures, individuals can significantly reduce the likelihood of falling prey to smishing attacks and safeguard their personal information.
1. What is smishing definition?
It refers to a type of cyber attack in which attackers use text messages (SMS) to trick individuals into divulging sensitive information, such as personal identification numbers (PINs), passwords, or other confidential information.
2. What does smishing mean?
“Smishing” is a term used to describe a type of cyber attack that involves phishing scams conducted via SMS (Short Message Service) or text messages. The word “smishing” is derived from a combination of “SMS” and “phishing.”
4. Is smishing a form of phishing?
Yes, smishing is indeed a form of phishing. The term “smishing” is a combination of “SMS” (Short Message Service) and “phishing.” While traditional phishing attacks often occur through email, smishing specifically refers to phishing attacks conducted through text messages or SMS.
5. What is smishing in cyber?
Smishing in cyber refers to a type of cyber attack that involves the use of SMS (Short Message Service) or text messages to deceive individuals into divulging sensitive information or taking malicious actions. The term “smishing” is a combination of “SMS” and “phishing.”
In a typical smishing attack, cybercriminals send fraudulent text messages to mobile phone users, posing as legitimate entities such as banks, government agencies, or other trusted organizations. The messages often contain urgent or alarming content, encouraging recipients to click on links, call phone numbers, or take some other action.
6. What is smishing vs phishing?
Definition: It is a cyber attack that typically occurs through email communication. Attackers send fraudulent emails pretending to be from a reputable source, such as a bank, government agency, or well-known company.
Method: Phishing emails often contain links to fake websites where victims are tricked into entering their personal information, such as usernames, passwords, or credit card details.
Definition: It is a form of phishing that takes place through SMS (Short Message Service) or text messages on mobile devices.
Method: Similar to phishing, smishing involves sending text messages that appear to be from a legitimate source, prompting recipients to click on links or reply with personal information.
7. What happens if you click on a smishing text?
Clicking on a smishing text can have various consequences, and it often leads to negative outcomes for the individual who falls victim to the attack. Here are some potential consequences of clicking on a smishing text:
Malware Installation: Clicking on a link in a smishing text could lead to the download and installation of malicious software (malware) on your mobile device. This malware could compromise the security and functionality of your device.
Phishing Website: The link in the smishing text may direct you to a fraudulent website that mimics a legitimate one, such as a banking site. If you enter your login credentials on such a site, the attacker can capture and misuse your sensitive information.
Financial Fraud: Smishing attacks, like phishing attacks, may aim to trick you into providing financial information. This could result in unauthorized access to your bank accounts or credit card information, leading to financial loss.
8. What is smishing slang for?
Smishing is a portmanteau of “SMS” (Short Message Service) and “phishing.” It refers to a type of cyber attack in which attackers use text messages (SMS) to trick individuals into revealing sensitive information or performing certain actions, such as clicking on malicious links. Smishing is essentially a form of phishing that takes place through SMS.
9. What is a real life example of smishing attack?
One real-life example of a smishing attack occurred when individuals received text messages claiming to be from their bank. The messages urged recipients to click on a link to resolve an alleged issue with their accounts. However, the provided link led to a fraudulent website designed to steal personal information, such as login credentials and financial details. This type of smishing attack preys on the trustworthiness of seemingly legitimate sources to deceive individuals and compromise their sensitive information.
10. How to respond to smishing?
If you receive a smishing attempt, it’s crucial to respond appropriately to protect yourself from falling victim to the scam. Here are some steps you can take:
Do Not Respond or Click Links:
Avoid responding to the smishing message or clicking on any links it contains. Responding or clicking may confirm to the attacker that your number is active and monitored.
Verify the Sender:
If the message claims to be from a legitimate organization, such as a bank or government agency, independently verify the sender’s identity.
Delete the Message:
Delete the smishing message from your phone to avoid accidentally interacting with it.
11. Why are smishing attacks particularly effective?
Smishing attacks can be particularly effective for several reasons, mainly due to the characteristics of text messages and the tactics employed by attackers:
Urgency and Immediacy:
Smishing messages often convey a sense of urgency or emergency, creating a heightened emotional response. Urgent messages can lead individuals to act quickly without thoroughly considering the legitimacy of the request.
Attackers may use personal information or context-specific details to make the smishing messages appear more convincing.
Smishing messages often include links that, when clicked, can lead to phishing websites or malware downloads. Since the actual URL is usually hidden in the message, recipients may be more likely to click without verifying the link’s destination.
12. What is smishing and phishing examples?
Examples of smishing
Fake Bank Alerts:
A text message claiming to be from your bank alerts you to a supposed unauthorized transaction on your account. The message provides a phone number to call or a link to click to resolve the issue.
Prize or Lottery Scams:
You receive a text message congratulating you on winning a lottery or prize. To claim your winnings, you are asked to provide personal information or pay a fee. This is a common smishing tactic aimed at extracting money or sensitive data.
Examples of phishing
Email from a Fake Bank:
You receive an email that appears to be from your bank, requesting you to click on a link to update your account information due to a supposed security issue. The link leads to a fake website designed to steal your login credentials.
Social Media Phishing:
You get an email supposedly from a social media platform, warning you of suspicious activity on your account. The email contains a link to reset your password, but the link leads to a fake login page designed to capture your credentials.