Smishing attacks help cybercriminals gain unauthorized access to sensitive information like user credentials, social security numbers, and bank account numbers. So, what is smishing in cyber security? Smishing refers to short message service (SMS) phishing, where a perpetrator attempts to pretext an individual into divulging sensitive information via text messaging.
Optimizing your cyber defenses against smishing starts with:
- Identifying the different smishing tactics used by cybercriminals
- Learning about examples of smishing attacks
- Understanding the differences between smishing and phishing
- Developing best practices to mitigate smishing
Like other types of social engineering threats, smishing can be addressed early on to reduce the chances of full-blown smishing attacks on your organization.
Different Smishing Tactics
Smishing attacks are designed to steal sensitive information from unsuspecting users or convince them to provide the attacker with access to this information unwittingly.
When deploying smishing attacks, cybercriminals often pretext users into:
- Divulging sensitive information so they can log into their accounts
- Clicking malicious links to download malware onto their mobile devices
- Sending money over the phone
Although they are deployed via text messaging, smishing attacks also apply to non-SMS messaging platforms like WeChat or Apple’s iMessage.
Examples of Smishing
So, what do smishing attacks typically look like in real-world scenarios? They often mirror other forms of social engineering, like basic or targeted email phishing or voice phishing (vishing).
Below are some examples of smishing threats.
Users may receive text messages notifying them of item delivery at their home, with a message asking the recipient to click on the link to check the delivery status. The link is often compromised, and clicking on it may install malware on the user’s device.
Bank/Credit Card Text
A user may receive a text about a fraudulent back charge or credit card purchase from a number claiming to be the user’s bank. Clicking on the link in the message typically leads to a clone website designed to steal sensitive account information such as PINs or passwords.
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A text message about a lucky win for a lottery or raffle draw is probably a smishing attempt. Targets are typically asked to click a link or provide their account details to gain access to their “raffle win”—and clicking or providing information will almost certainly compromise their data.
Random text messages warning users about compromised accounts that require passwords to be reset may also be smishing attempts. In most cases, the texts will pretext the target into divulging a password over text.
Criminals may also try to steal your identity directly via smishing, especially when attempting to claim a fraudulent tax refund. In such cases, the perpetrator will send a smishing text asking a target to confirm sensitive information such as a social security number.
Smishing attacks may also create a sense of urgency or panic around a package delivery. The perpetrator will ask the target to confirm a residential address or click on a malicious link that will then download malware.
Cybercriminals also claim to be representatives of the IRS and send urgent messages to unsuspecting users demanding sensitive information like social security numbers to avoid getting into trouble with the IRS.
What Type of Cyber Attack Is Smishing?
Smishing is a social engineering attack designed to convince users to divulge sensitive information to cybercriminals.
The Differences Between Smishing vs. Phishing
The main difference between smishing and phishing is that smishing occurs via text messaging platforms whereas phishing is intended for email. Unlike phishing, smishing social engineering threats almost exclusively target users by appealing to their personal situations (e.g., their tax liabilities, bank account information, credit card purchases). Phishing rouses are more diverse.
How To Prevent Smishing & Protect Yourself
Protecting yourself from smishing starts with security awareness training, especially when it comes to mobile security. Managing how you respond to unknown texts will help you stay ahead of cybercriminals’ attempts to access your sensitive information. Learning how to prevent smishing will also help you mitigate cyberattacks and disruptions to business continuity.
How To Respond To an Unknown Text
When you receive an unknown text asking for sensitive information, do respond immediately. You must verify the sender’s number, especially if the text claims to be sent from a trusted institution like a bank or the Social Security Administration. Implementing mobile device management best practices will help secure your device and mitigate smishing risks from becoming threats.
How RSI Security Can Help You Prevent Smishing
As a leading security awareness training provider, RSI Security will help you prevent smishing attacks from compromising your organization’s IT assets. Cybersecurity training is not meant to be a one-time process, but rather a set of ongoing processes that continuously address your security needs. Our security training services include:
- Security tests for phishing, smishing, and vishing
- Optimized security training
- Phishing alerts and tracking
- Security hints and tips
- Social engineering indicators
Beyond helping your employees implement cybersecurity best practices, our security training services will keep your organization a step ahead of cybercriminal activity.
Contact us today to learn more and prevent smishing!