91% of all cyber-attacks start with a phishing link. In other words, phishing, the fraudulent practice of sending emails claiming to be from reputable companies to entice individuals to reveal personal information, is an incredibly common and often successful hacking technique that all internet users should be familiar with. Thankfully, most popular email clients come with some form of spam and virus protection while educational resources about phishing are on the rise. However, phishing comes in other, less common forms with far fewer built-in protections.
Smishing, the fraudulent practice of doing the same thing as phishing, but with text messages instead of emails, is less common but can be just as damaging. Text message open rates are usually between 90% and 99%, with many texts being opened within 3 minutes of receipt. That means even though phishing attacks are more common, a single smishing attack is more likely to reach its target. You can defend yourself from smishing attacks by applying the same vigilance you should to your emails to your text messages.
1) Don’t click on oddly formatted links from senders you don’t recognize, no matter how the message is sent.
2) Fraudsters often disguise their attacks by urging you to click their compromising links quickly. Always take the time to examine suspicious messages for grammar and formatting mistakes. That’s usually a clear sign indicating disreputable sources.
3) If you aren’t sure about the legitimacy of the message, try contacting the purported organization directly via phone call or by navigating to their webpage without using the link you were sent.
4) If you do receive suspicious text messages, block the offending number and consider reporting the attempt to the IT teams of any organizations you’re a part of.
Much like phishing, smishing and all other forms of social engineering are on the rise. Social Engineering refers to techniques hackers and fraudsters use to gain access to restricted systems and information that rely on human behavior. Be careful about how you interact with others online and what information you share publicly. As we continue to become a more cyber-based society, the related dangers will also increase.
Protecting yourself and your organizations online requires constant vigilance. Always think before you click, especially on social media and unknown websites. When in doubt, err on the side of caution, especially when it comes to suspicious messages and links. Your sharp eye and a healthy amount of skepticism can be the difference between an ordinary day and a cybersecurity nightmare.