SMS Phishing: How to Protect Yourself?

Jan 20, 2020
SMS Phishing

What Is SMS Phishing?

There are many ways you can fall victim to cyberattacks on your phone. Cyber attacks typically are for stealing personal/confidential information from another individual without their knowledge. One of the most prevalent ways hackers gain access to such information is through SMS phishing.

SMS phishing uses the Short Message Service facility available on mobile phones to deliver a malicious link to the target user. Once clicked, this link has the potential to deliver the victim’s personal information, such as credit card information or passwords, back to the hacker. Such links also have the potential to install malicious software on the victim’s phone, allowing the hacker to track and steal additional information.

SMS Phishing Examples

If you need an SMS phishing example, then there are, in fact, several that can help you identify SMS with phishing attacks. These include the following:

Invitations to Participate

Many phishing attacks sent over an SMS are masked as invitations to participate in the XYZ event. This event could be a competition or an exhibition. Regardless, this message would contain a link, requiring you to register. By the looks of it, you may like to believe that this message is coming from a valid source. However, you must not trust such messages. Instead, verify such invitations on the internet and then click on such links.

Verification of Information

We live in the digital age, and now everything can be done through our cell phones, including banking. You must’ve engaged with your bank over the phone a few times, and usually, they do ask for your information to verify your credentials before letting you conduct banking transactions over the phone. However, banks never ask for such personal information over SMS, such as your recent transactions, card’s pin code, credit card number, etc. If you receive a message like that, it would be best to just ignore it.

Charging For Responding

A few phishing attacks are more direct. They ask you to respond to a message without telling you that responding would cost you a lot of money. This money goes directly to the attackers. Hence, don’t respond to a message if it does not require a response from you.

So, How to Protect Yourself from SMS Phishing Attack?

Now that we know what an SMS Phishing Attack may look like, it is time to focus on effective precautions you can take to stay clear of phishing SMS messages. Here are some of the ways to protect yourself from SMS phishing attacks.

  • If a message asks you to take action immediately or respond quickly, then don’t. Carefully evaluate the source of the message and check whether it is from a known source. If not, it’s better that you ignore the message.
  • Any SMS that asks for your financial information will always be a phishing attack. Ignore responding to such messages at all times. Know that your bank or financial service provider will never ask for your personal information over a text message.
  • Try to avoid clicking on the links contained within text messages, even if they come from reliable sources. Such links may contain phishing attacks.
  • Always evaluate the sender’s number. If it seems suspicious, avoid responding to or taking action on such messages.
  • You can take extra precautions by keeping your financial information outside of your phone. Don’t store sensitive information such as credit card details on your phone to ensure your data remains secure.
  • It is always a good idea to install a text blocking app on your phone to protect yourself against SMS phishing attacks. Such apps offer a strong firewall and offer effective warnings to the user if they ever encounter SMS that contains phishing attacks.

PayPal Phishing SMS

PayPal users are particularly at risk of receiving phishing SMS since the service is exclusively online. Hence, it is very easy for attackers to break into PayPal accounts (after receiving the required login information through phishing attacks) and transfer funds out.

The most common types of phishing text messages that you will receive with the intention of gaining access to your PayPal account will claim that your account is under review. Those messages will also mention that you are required to complete a security form in order to keep it operational and avoid risking getting your account blocked or suspended.

Such messages always contain links that will take you to the form. This form will ask for your PayPal account information and, once provided, immediately transfer this information to the attacker.

To remain secure, never act upon any such text message as PayPal would never deliver such information to you over a text message, even if it sounds like the message is coming directly from them.

SMS Phishing Android

As technology has evolved, so has the strength and effectiveness of phishing attacks. SMS phishing on android devices is likely to become a serious issue in the coming months due to the advancements in the phishing methodology. Researchers have claimed that Samsung phones are most at-risk, while other Android phone makers, such as Huawei and Sony, are also prone to increased instances of phishing attacks.

The new phishing methods use the OTA, or over-the-air, a technology used by all modern smartphones, which is generally used by networks to deliver network-specific information to users. But, this technology does not have adequate authentication barriers, making it possible for attackers to send phishing attacks over OTA as well. Once a user mistakes a phishing attack for actual network settings and accepts them, all of the phone’s network traffic would then be routed through the attacker, thereby exposing all of the victim’s internet activity.

Naturally, you cannot avoid accepting network settings delivered OTA; otherwise, you won’t be able to use mobile data. However, it is recommended that you pay close attention to the settings that you are accepting. Make sure these settings are coming directly from your network provider, and only accept them once. Any further network settings received over OTA must be ignored.

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