Introduction 

Fraudulent messages are on the rise. Time after time, the messages are becoming extremely sophisticated. For instance, more than 96,000 smishing attacks have been recorded in the United Kingdom alone. These records are only captured by people who opted to record their experiences. There are so many incidents that have gone without any notice, or documentation. These tend to increase the severity of smishing attacks, which are on the rise! 

On the other hand, more than 200,000 smishing attacks are recorded in Canada and the United States every year. This includes the extremely common SMS and email communication. According to Verizon, more than eighty percent of the attacks are not via email. Instead, people choose common platforms like SMS to initiate such attacks.

When compared to other types of attacks, smishing is effective because smart devices are often handled by little ones. This makes the platform prone to be affected by security threats. The chances of a child following instructions given in an SMS are extremely high. As a result, the chances of a successful “hack” increases. 

  1. What is smishing Attack?
  2. What is the Difference Between Phishing and Smishing?
  3. What is an Example of Smishing?
  4. How Does Smishing Occur?

1. What is Smishing Attack?

By definition, smishing attacks are misleading messages that can trigger the victim to perform an action, which would result in financial loss or misuse of information. The misleading messages are sent to deceive the target. This means the messages are carefully drafted to ensure that the victim falls for the “plan”. The messages are worded to make you believe that they came from a reputed person, or the organization you belong to.

They can be extremely convincing, triggering the victim to share important pieces of information. This could be anything like your financial information (credit card number, CVV), professional credentials (username and password), or personal details (social security number). 

Smishing attacks have been around since the early 1990s. These are a small variation of the conventional email-based attacks. However, SMS based smishing attacks are more effective because smartphones are often checked by the common man. The chances of a person reading their SMS are much higher than the email. This is why the smishing attack does a lot of harm. 

Meanwhile, there is another type of widespread attack that grabs the attention of hackers. That would be the phishing attack. And, there are a few prominent differences between the two. 

2. What is the difference between phishing and smishing?

Smishing is a subset of phishing attacks. This means smishing is also a phishing attack that focuses only on emails and messages. On the other hand, phishing attacks cover everything ranging from emails to messages to network eavesdropping. The term “Vishing” is used to identify an attack that makes use of the voice. As mentioned previously, all these attacks have a history that dates back to the 1990s. They target specific (or a group) of people. Hackers spend a considerable amount of time trying to understand the interests and behavior of their victims. This helps them plan attacks that are “highly” efficient and effective. 

3. What is an Example of Smishing?

There are many interesting examples of smishing attacks. To begin with, you need to pay close attention to the spelling of terms in the emails and messages you receive. 

In the year 2018, one of the biggest banks in the United States witnessed the smishing attack. During the attack, multiple customers entered their credentials on a fraudulent website. The spoofed website collected information that could unlock the financial details of numerous customers. Consequently, more than 68000 USD was withdrawn from the hi-jacked accounts. 

Another smishing example would be an occasion where 23,000 USD was withdrawn from the account of British personnel. The amount of withdrawn as soon as his one-time password was revealed. The spoofed message was drafted by a hacker who kept track of the victim’s communication with Santander Bank. The victim had used a similar thread to exchange many messages with the genuine bank. 

One of the world’s biggest smishing attacks happened in the Czech Republic. The attack involved convincing the public to download a fake application. The application stated that it was from the national postal authorities. However, it was a fake application that downloaded a Trojan virus into the systems of the victims. The Trojan virus was coded to harvest financial details like credit card numbers from the devices. Of course, such attacks are rare and the consequences can be terrible. 

4. How Does Smishing Occur?

In a typical situation, the victim is encouraged to follow steps that would result in the revelation of their financial details, or personal information. The hackers represent themselves as a genuine source, which the victim is prone to believe and exchange information with. They make promises like an “exciting” prize or a platform where they can protect themselves from “potential” threats. Most of the time, the messages are extremely convincing. And, it is difficult to differentiate the fake ones from the “genuine” conversations. This is why stopping and fighting against phishing is difficult. 

Common forms of smishing attacks are:

Links to fraudulent sites

Call from premiums customer support 

Wiring money into the hacker account

Replying to SMS that can collect specific pieces of information 

A) Prevention: How to Stop Smishing? 

Stopping smishing attacks can be very difficult. But, it is not impossible. To begin with, messages and emails on any electronic device need to be handled with care. The sender and the content of the message have to be evaluated multiple times before any action. The action could be anything like opening a file, downloading a document, or even following a link. This step needs to be done by the “common” user. 

Two, you must not respond to messages from fraudulent hosts. Never respond to calls that originate from “unknown” or “suspicious” numbers like 50000.

Three, you should delete all smishing text messages and emails immediately. It would be a risk holding these messages in your accounts for a long.

Conclusion

On the whole, smishing attacks are a type of phishing attack. The sniffing attacks focus on sending emails and text messages to victims, who are likely to respond with valuable information. Questions on how does a hacker works, and what is the right security tool for your need, will find answers only when you understand what is phishing in computer terms. 

So, have you made up your mind to make a career in Cyber Security? Visit our Master Certificate in Cyber Security (Red Team) for further help. It is the first program in offensive technologies in India and allows learners to practice in a real-time simulated ecosystem, that will give you an edge in this competitive world.

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