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Smishing & Vishing: What Are They, And How Can You Protect Against Them?
A text message claiming to be from Microsoft Support, alerting you about an issue with your computer. An unfamiliar caller requesting that you verify your mailing address and credit card number so you can claim your free prize. An SMS message seeking your confirmation of an Amazon shipment. An urgent voicemail message from the IRS. These are all prime examples of smishing and vishing cyberattacks.
Smartphones have become one of the most prevalent methods of contact for cybercriminals. Hackers know how attached we are to our phones and how difficult it can be to ignore the ping of a text message or the buzz of an incoming phone call.
Both smishing and vishing depend on social engineering to dupe victims into surrendering personal information. Using persuasive and often urgent language, cybercriminals manipulate victims into revealing confidential data such as their bank account and credit card details, passwords, social security number, date of birth, and mailing address.
Victims are confident they’re doing the right thing by supplying this information. After all, the caller is warning them that they could face criminal prosecution from the IRS if they can’t validate their bank account details. And the text message guaranteeing delivery of a free prize states that the offer will expire in one hour unless the necessary bank account details are provided.
It’s important to be aware that cybercriminals set their sights on both individuals and organizations with these strategic smishing and vishing attacks. In many cases, cybercriminals will initially send spear-phishing emails in order to gather information that they will then use to deliver customized text messages and phone calls.
What Is Smishing?
Smishing, a shortened version of the term “SMS phishing,” is a type of cyberattack that utilizes misleading text messages – purported to be from reputable companies – to pilfer confidential and corporate information from users.
With compelling and alarming vocabulary, the text message may seek to threaten the victim with dire consequences if they don’t take action or try to persuade the victim that they would be helping the sender by providing the sought-after information.
Text messages are a particularly attractive technique for cybercriminals, as the evidence bears out the efficacy of the medium. Take into consideration these recent statistics concerning SMS marketing:
- 98% of all text messages are read and opened
- 90% of all text messages are read within 3 minutes
- Text messages have a 209% higher response rate than phone calls, emails, and Facebook messages
To further simplify matters for cybercriminals, people generally have a very low awareness of smishing attacks. This unfamiliarity gives rise to a perilous environment where victims don’t think twice about clicking on embedded links, providing personal information, or directly responding to the hacker who’s texting them.
What Is Vishing?
Vishing, derived from the phrase “voice phishing,” is a form of cyberattack that involves using the telephone to steal sensitive data from a person. Cybercriminals employ slick social engineering tactics to persuade victims to relinquish private information as well as access to bank accounts.
Hackers will frequently adapt the messaging of their vishing calls to the time of the year or try to establish a connection by leveraging trending news stories. For example, during tax season, cybercriminals might leave messages passing themselves off as representatives from the IRS. Additionally, since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, hackers have been calling people touting false promises of vaccinations or testing kits, if the victims would merely supply their bank account information and mailing address.
Like smishing, vishing attacks are used to appropriate data from both individuals and organizations. For example, a cybercriminal may check out an organization on LinkedIn and on the company website, gathering details about its leadership and employees, taking note of individuals who might be traveling or attending a conference. With this intelligence in hand, the cybercriminal then makes a string of strategic phone calls and voicemails attempting to prevail upon an employee to transfer funds on behalf of their manager who is traveling and is unable to access the network.
How to Safeguard Your Organization and Employees from Smishing and Vishing Attacks
With such a prominent focus on phishing, spear-phishing, malware, and even CEO fraud, it’s easy to disregard the threat of smishing and vishing. However, these types of approaches are standard methods of attack for cybercriminals who zero in on organizations and their employees.
To safeguard your organization and employees from smishing and vishing attacks, take heed of the following recommendations:
- Reap the benefits of security awareness training programs that apply real-world examples of smishing and vishing attacks to illustrate how cybercriminals use text messaging and phone calls to perpetrate cyber-fraud.
- Enable employees to easily report smishing and vishing attacks to you and your team.
- If your company has a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy, it’s crucial to establish rigorous procedures with respect to application updates, password protection, Wi-Fi connectivity, and observing recommended remote and mobile device cybersecurity best practices.
- Conduct phishing simulations to evaluate and track employee awareness of the dangers of cyber-fraud. Harness this data to tailor your security awareness training and strive to concentrate on areas where your employees require further instruction.
Bear in mind, your employees are your first line of defense against smishing and vishing attacks. Direct your efforts toward providing employees with security awareness training that’s pertinent, progressive, and practical. When your employees recognize how easily smishing and vishing occur and can comprehend the implications of an effective attack, they’re more likely to keep a closer eye out for potential threats.
While no form of cyberattack can completely be prevented, being mindful of the signs can help mitigate the chances of its success. Having solid cybersecurity solutions in place for your organization can further protect against the ever-evolving techniques of cybercriminals.
To schedule a free IT assessment with DataGroup Technologies, please visit our website or call 252.329.1382 today!
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