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What is Smishing and How to Defend Against it?

what is smishing how to defend against it

E-commerce platforms, online services, and smartphones have become the most indispensable way of carrying out day to day activities. During the Covid pandemic, social distancing restrictions are among the most significant factors that have brought a big boom into online businesses. Result? Cyberattacks of almost all forms are on a record high. With the ease of using smartphones and improved mobile user interface, more and more people are using the Internet for carrying out financial transactions and internet banking. Although users are much more aware of cyberattacks and cyber safety than any time before, smishing is a cyber threat that has not gathered as much attention as such and poses to be hazardous to the safety of sensitive information on mobile phones.

According to Security.org report, a 59% rise in Smishing, Phishing, and similar web scams took place from 2015 to 2018 that is indeed a huge jump, and the situation continues to worsen.

So, it becomes imperative to focus our efforts on looking for signs to identify Smishing attacks and solutions to prevent it. Let us try to find out more about it.

What Do Smishing Attacks Look like?

The most common Smishing messages seem to come from most trusted sources, so understanding common examples of smishing scams can help identify them.

Suspicious messages that seem to be originating from a close friend or family may indeed be a smishing attempt. Their phone numbers might have fallen prey to smishing attacks.

Messages promising fat amounts of money won in some lottery, urging you to share your account details could well be one of those malicious attacks.

Another example can be texts claiming that you have subscribed to a chargeable service unless you click on the unsubscribe link.

Messages from trusted organizations like hospitals or police departments informing that someone close to you is in an emergency and that you must immediately send across the money is also a widespread smishing attempt.

Other examples include texts from government organizations requesting to fill in your personal details, messages from banks to log in, or asking for credit card details, text messages containing links, urging you to download something.

All these instances should always be kept in mind to identify any Smishing Attempts and stay safe.

What is Smishing?

The word ‘Smishing’ finds its origin from a combination of SMS (Short Message Services) and ‘Phishing. It is a cyber scam that targets your smartphones and fools you into downloading malware or spyware, and tricks you into clicking on links leading to fake websites to steal your sensitive data. It is like Phishing that uses e-mail to steal such data, but smishing uses text messages instead to carry out data theft.

Types of Smishing

There are mainly two types of text messages that cybercriminals use to carry out smishing attacks:

The smishing message received by the victim carries a state of urgency like a claim that your account is frozen and instructs you to call a phone number or go to a website by clicking on the link provided. It asks you to verify your account by typing in your sensitive personal information misused to carry out your online ID theft. With this information in their hands, hackers illegally steal money from your account or get a new credit card issued using your credentials.

Another type of smishing attack also shows similar urgency where the cyber criminals trick you into downloading malware carried in the smishing message that installs itself on your smartphone, allowing cyber attackers to access all the data on your phone. Sometimes, this malware might be a legal application to fool you into giving away your crucial information that scammers can misuse.

Why are smishing attacks so dangerous?

Smishing attacks pose a significant threat to the crucial bank account details or any other financial transaction details, which expose the hackers with more and more users using mobile smartphones for banking and money transactions at e-commerce websites. The situation becomes more dangerous as many users believe that smartphones are safer, and there is less awareness among them regarding smishing attacks than phishing attacks. Hence, they are less careful with the handling of data on their mobile phones.

Users believe that the security features provided on their android or i-phones make them safe from data theft. The truth is that no device security features can independently give protection against smishing unless the users strictly observe certain safety practices. Since smartphones are easy to carry, there are more chances of cyber criminals catching you off guard. You may be in a hurry or paying less attention, and you end up falling prey to these illegal smishing messages.

How do you protect yourself?

The loss incurred by Smishing attacks can be controlled if you follow the necessary rules of conduct to protect yourself.

Be Aware and Cautious about the threats involved with texting. Do not be in haste while going through your SMSs. Always critically examine them for authenticity and lookup for any signs that point towards a scam. That is the way to prevent falling into any trap.

Reserve your response if you receive a smishing text message asking you to respond. It will enable scammers to stop any further communication with you. On the contrary, if you respond, your scammer knows that you are active on the number, and they can further target you with more smishing messages. So, no response is a better and safer way of handling such SMSs.

No Clicking on the message’s links is the safest and best policy to be followed to protect yourself from smishing. A better approach would be to directly type the website address and reach the website through your browser.

Take Confirmation from the Organization itself by reaching out to them directly for any emergency messages, instead of reaching out on the phone numbers provided in the text. It should always raise the alarm in your mind if any of your trusted organizations demand an unreasonable amount of your data over messages. Generally, no government institution or bank asks for details over text.

Report to the Local Law Enforcement regarding all the smishing attacks for the benefit of all other users. Any big smishing scam can be nipped in the bud and prevent widespread severe losses to the community.

Do not store your Credit Card or Banking details on your smartphones. It will save you from suffering massive financial losses even if any malware is installed on your phones. Better stay safe than sorry.

In conclusion, smishing can cause havoc if any of your transaction data gets exposed to hackers. To stay safe, follow simple steps to stay one step ahead of these miscreants. Choosing to not respond to any of the viral texts, or not getting tricked to download any malware, or clicking any link can help you safeguard your sensitive data from any smishing messages. Stay alert and stay safe!

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