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Smishing attacks and how to avoid them

NetworkTigers discusses smishing attacks and what you can do to stay safe.

Smishing attacks, also known as SMS phishing, are cybersecurity attacks that occur via mobile text messaging. Today’sSMS phishing occurs on different mobile text messaging platforms where disguised attackers lure victims to provide their sensitive data. Today’s cyber attackers use smishing scams because people trust text messages more than emails. Read on to understand how smishing attacks work and how to protect yourself. 

What is smishing?

Smishing is a social engineering attack that uses text messages instead of emails to exploit human trust. When attackers “phish,” they send fraudulent emails that trick recipients into clicking on dangerous links. These attackers are out to steal your personal information, which they can use to commit cybercrimes and other fraudulent activities.

Cybercriminals usually use malicious sites to steal information. The link in the smishing text may take you to a fake website that requires you to type your confidential personal data. Remember that criminals use tailor-made harmful websites to impersonate reputable ones, making it easier to steal your data.

The smishing URL link may trick you into downloading malware. The attackers also use SMS malware, harmful software installed on your mobile phone. This malware may disguise itself as a trustworthy application, tricking you into giving away sensitive data and sending it to the attackers.

How does smishing work?

Fraud and deception are the major components of SMS smishing attacks. You’re more likely to succumb to the criminals’ requests since they assume an identity you trust. Unfortunately, social engineering principles allow smishing criminals to manipulate their victim’s decision-making. The following are the driving factors of this fraud:

  • Personalized messages – The attackers use situations relevant to their targets to build an effective disguise. They craft customized messages to override any suspicions that they could be spam.
  • Trust – The attackers lower their victim’s skepticism by posing as reputable companies and individuals. SMS texts also reduce their target’s defenses against threats since its a more personal communication channel.
  • Emotion – Criminals override their victim’s critical thinking by heightening their emotions to spur them into taking action quickly. 

Using these methods, cybercriminals write messages that make their targets open URL links within the messages, where they’re led to phishing tools that prompt them to reveal their confidential information. Often, these tools come as an application or a website that masquerades under a false identity. 

Victims are selected in different ways based on their affiliation with specific regions or companies. A criminal disguise is usually related to the organization they want to gain access. It can also be any mask that can assist them in acquiring your financial data or identity. 

5 tips to avoid smishing attacks

The increasing popularity of smishing scams means more people fall victim to the text hacking tactic. Here are tips to help you strengthen your messaging security and prevent smishing attacks:

While some links are from illegal sources, some are from reputable organizations with verifiable actions and genuine offers. For example, your bank may send you a message asking you for some crucial information. However, verify links sent to you via messages before clicking on them. 

Do not engage with unverifiable links through messages. If you’re unsure whether a link is legitimate, ignore it. If you must verify the message’s source, interact with the individual in person.

Be aware of messages with a deadline

When you see a message or a link with a sense of urgency, verify its source before doing anything. Smishing is so deceptive; it subconsciously tricks you into acting according to the criminal’s desire. Some hackers build a wall of excitement, while others instill fear in you so that you act fast.

You may rush to reply to a message thinking it’s an opportunity you’ll never have again, only to discover it’s just another smishing strategy.

Avoid sharing confidential data

Nowadays, reputable companies warn their customers not to share sensitive information. Even financial institutions are against providing such details or being held responsible for the loss you suffer. 

No matter the situation, do not be in a hurry to give out personal data to apps and people trying to develop a formal approach via messages. If you can’t justify why a source requires specific data from you, do not provide it.

Use message-blocking tools

Always use the best security applications, depending on your needs. Attackers fear this security technique as it helps minimize the number of cases recorded. The tools prevent attackers from sending smishing messages, so you don’t have to delete them manually. Some devices also prevent calls from a specific number range, while others help you keep numbers on a blacklist. 

Report malicious activities 

Reporting smishing activities immediately can help mitigate cyber crimes and save you money. Hackers do not stop at a few attempts when planning smishing attacks. They keep texting you with different strategies waiting for the day you fall victim. The best thing you can do is to report smishing activities immediately if you suspect them. 

Embrace good texting habits to prevent smishing scams

While texting may seem harmless, it might be a criminal’s strategy to compromise your phone or steal your information. To prevent it, verify all messages before taking action. Also, report malicious messages from fraudsters and delete unnecessary texts. 

Maclean Odiesa
Maclean Odiesa
Maclean is a tech freelance writer with 7+ years in content strategy and development. She is also a pillar pages specialist and SEO expert.

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Smishing attacks and how to avoid them