What is Smishing in Cyber Security?

Criminals use different methods to extract personal and financial details from unsuspecting victims – but what is smishing in cyber security?

Smishing is a specific form of cyber attack conducted via text message, sometimes known as SMS phishing. Cybercriminals deceive victims into providing personal or financial information by pretending to be from a trusted third party. Millions of people fall foul of smishing attacks every year.

Read on to find out everything you need to know about smishing, online safety, and how you can avoid it.

How Does Smishing Work?

Smishing is a form of phishing, a tactic that cybercriminals have long used to extract personal and financial data from unsuspecting victims. 

The objective of the criminals is to extract data that they can then use to commit fraud. Typically, criminals carry out smishing in one of two ways:

  • Malware: The criminals will send you a link that tricks you into downloading malware onto your device. It might appear as a legitimate application before tricking you into entering confidential information that the hacker then steals.
  • Malicious website: Alternatively, a criminal will share a link to a fake website that asks you to input your personal or financial information. Again, this phony site will likely mimic a legitimate one, and it can be challenging to discern the difference from a cursory glance.

In most instances, smishing messages come from cyber attackers claiming to be a bank, building society, or utility company, seeking you to carry out a specific action as a matter of urgency.

While anyone can become a victim of smishing, teaching yourself what to look out for can help you avoid such scams.

The Different Types of Smishing Attacks Explained

Unfortunately, internet criminals are becoming more sophisticated in their smishing attacks. 

As such, you should be on the lookout for the following types of attacks, mainly when you receive a suspicious text message:

  • Covid-19 smishing: You might be asked for private data (social security number) for contract tracing or tax-based financial relief information (stimulus checks).
  • Financial services smishing: Criminals send links that seem to direct you to an app or website from your bank or a credit card provider.
  • Gift smishing: You may receive an SMS offering a gift or a shopping reward. These are likely to be online rewards or online gift cards.
  • Customer support smishing: Hackers might contact you pretending to be a customer service agent from a company like Amazon, asking you to resolve an issue.
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The critical thing to remember with smishing is that attacks come in many forms, so it’s imperative to be diligent about giving out your personal and financial information, particularly when it has been requested via SMS.

Some companies even utilize a secure networking service such as Cisco ISE for when employees bring in their own phones to work.

How to Protect Yourself from Smishing?

You could be targeted as part of a smishing campaign if you have a mobile phone. However, the good news is that it’s relatively easy to protect yourself and if you suspect smishing, follow the steps below:

  • Never respond to a suspicious text message: even if you’re asked to reply “STOP” to the SMS in question.
  • It probably isn’t if someone sends you an “Urgent” text message. Proceed with caution and wait to see if there’s a follow-up message or call.
  • Avoid using links or applications shared via text message, as doing so could activate the malware.
  • Set up multi-factor authentication on all of your accounts. This means that even if a hacker steals your password, they won’t be able to access your account.
  • Report the smishing attempt to the relevant authorities so they can investigate it and shut it down.

So, remember to proceed with caution if you receive a suspicious text message. If in doubt, ignore it and block the number.

If they decide to call you, don’t answer the phone because the apps to block recording seem not to work that great.

If it needs your attention, the person or company will likely contact you again via another method and won’t rely solely on SMS.

What Should You Do if You’re a Victim of Smishing?

Recognizing the fact is the first step if you think you have been a victim of a smishing attack. Begin by reporting the smishing attack to the relevant department of the FTC.

Look to freeze or cancel the cards you think might have been stolen, contact your bank, and inform them of the potential attack. 

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Your next step should be changing all your login details, particularly those associated with your financial accounts.

Finally, monitor your financial accounts and report any suspicious or unexplained activity to your bank. Most all-in-one security suites have good mobile protection but think twice about using McAfee as some users have complained about the long and arduous uninstallation process.

If you act quickly, you might be able to change your details before the criminals can cause you any financial problems.

Is Smishing Common?

In 2020, approximately 240,000 people were victims of smishing attacks, resulting in more than $50 million in losses in the United States. But it’s not just a problem facing US citizens, as smishing is a global problem that poses a computer security risk to different populations.

Cybercriminals tend to take advantage of global events.

The Covid-19 pandemic is a classic example where attackers lead unsuspecting victims to provide personal or financial information that they think is necessary for various unscrupulous reasons.

Therefore, it’s vital to be diligent when smishing while learning to recognize the potential hallmarks of an attack App to Block Recording. The better you spot cybercrimes, the easier it is to avoid them.

Stay Vigilant: Don’t Be a Victim to Smishing!

A smishing attack is a type of phishing carried out via text message. It costs millions of dollars annually, and such attacks take many forms, deceiving people into providing their personal and financial information to hackers.

Fortunately, it’s relatively easy to protect yourself from smishing attacks, and you can follow the tips introduced throughout to do so.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is smishing?

A: Smishing, a combination of the words “SMS” and “phishing,” refers to a type of phishing attack that involves the use of text messages (SMS) to deceive individuals into divulging personal information or clicking on malicious links.

Q: How does a smishing attack work?

A: A smishing attack may involve the attacker sending a convincing message that appears to come from a legitimate source, such as a bank or financial institution, to trick the recipient into providing sensitive information or clicking on a link that leads to a fake website designed to steal their credentials.

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Q: What are some examples of smishing texts?

A: Smishing texts often include urgent messages claiming that the recipient’s account has been compromised and needs immediate action, fake notifications of winning prizes or contests, or requests for personal information under the guise of updating account details.

Q: How can individuals and organizations prevent smishing attacks?

A: Preventive measures include being cautious of unexpected messages, verifying the sender’s identity before responding or taking action, refraining from clicking on links in text messages, and enabling multi-factor authentication (MFA) for added security.

Q: What is the difference between smishing and phishing?

A: While smishing and phishing both aim to deceive individuals into divulging sensitive information, smishing specifically targets individuals through text messages, whereas phishing typically involves fraudulent emails or communication through other online platforms.

Q: How can one protect against smishing attacks?

A: Protection against smishing involves staying updated on security awareness training, being mindful of social engineering tactics, refraining from sharing personal data through text messages, and using security tools to identify and block suspicious messages.

Q: What are the common smishing scams to be aware of?

A: Common smishing scams include messages claiming to be from financial institutions requesting account verification, fake notifications of lottery winnings, prompts to click on links to resolve urgent account issues, and fraudulent messages posing as legitimate service providers.

Q: What is the meaning of smishing in the context of cybersecurity?

A: In cybersecurity, smishing refers to a type of social engineering attack that leverages text messages to deceive individuals into providing sensitive information, such as login credentials, credit card numbers, or personal data, to malicious actors.

Q: What type of personal information is targeted in a smishing attack?

A: Personal information targeted in a smishing attack may include sensitive data such as credit card information, login credentials for online accounts, personal identification details, and any information that can be exploited for fraudulent activities.

Q: How does smishing differ from vishing?

A: Smishing involves the use of text messages to deceive individuals, while vishing, short for “voice phishing,” typically involves fraudulent phone calls aimed at extracting sensitive information from the recipient through verbal communication.