Your Guide on Defending Against Smishing with Employee Awareness
In today's digital age, the threat of smishing (SMS phishing) is on the rise. Smishing scams have become more sophisticated and prevalent, targeting both individuals and organizations. As a result, businesses must educate their employees about this type of cyber attack to prevent falling victim to them.
According to the Proofpoint, 76% of organizations were targeted by smishing attacks last year—including us! At ClipTraining, we recently experienced a smishing incident that could have had serious consequences if it had not been identified and reported.
The Smishing Incident: Our Experience
We recently had a string of texts sent to multiple ClipTraining employees in which a scammer pretended to be a high-level member of the company, signing off the first message with the false name. The messages reached out to specific employees by name, simply asking if the message had been received—nothing out of the ordinary except that the message was coming from an unknown number.
Only when the employee replied in the affirmative did the scammer make any requests, claiming they needed an "urgent task" done. When the employee agreed, they were then told "I need to provide a client with some gift cards" and were asked to acquire Apple gift cards as soon as possible.
Potential Risks of Falling Victim to Smishing
Luckily, our employees were aware of the threat of smishing and did not fall for the scam. After the suspicious request, the scammer got no further response, even after they sent multiple messages asking for confirmation. However, this incident highlighted the need for increased awareness and defense against social engineering attacks.
If our employees had continued engaging with the scammer in the smishing text messages, it might have led to no more than a few gift cards being stolen. But with one success, they could have pushed the employees for more, leading to more serious consequences such as theft of sensitive information, greater financial loss, or even identity theft.
What Exactly Is Smishing?
Smishing (SMS phishing or text phishing) is a type of social engineering attack where scammers use text messages to trick individuals into revealing personal or sensitive information. These scams often appear as urgent messages from a familiar sender, such as a bank or company, asking the recipient to click on a link or reply with personal information.
Common Tactics Used by Smishers
Smishers use various tactics to exploit their targets, including:
- Urgency and fear: Scammers create a sense of urgency or fear in their messages to prompt the recipient into taking immediate action without thinking too much.
- Spoofing: They will often spoof the sender's number to make it appear as if the message is coming from a legitimate source.
- Fake links: The text messages may include links that lead to fake websites designed to steal personal information.
The Real-World Consequences of Successful Smishing Attacks
Let's get into the details of how these social engineering attacks can have real consequences:
- Financial loss: Scammers may use the stolen information to access bank accounts or make unauthorized purchases, resulting in potentially immense financial loss for individuals and organizations.
- Identity theft: Personal information obtained through smishing can be used to commit identity theft, which could lead to long-term consequences for the victim, such as difficulty obtaining credit or even losing job opportunities.
- Reputation damage: If an employee falls victim to a smishing attack and reveals sensitive information about their organization or clients, it can lead to significant reputational damage for the company.
How to Recognize Smishing Attempts
It’s important for employees to be aware of the signs of a smishing attempt and know how to prevent successful social engineering attacks. Some key indicators and red flags of smishing messages include:
- Unknown sender: Be cautious of messages from unknown numbers or senders that you do not recognize.
- Urgency and fear: Messages that create a sense of urgency or fear should be treated with caution. Don't let anyone pressure you into acting with too much haste.
- Spelling and grammar errors: Legitimate companies often have professional communication, so messages with spelling and grammar mistakes could be a sign of a scam.
- Requests for personal information or gift cards: Be wary of messages asking you to provide personal information, especially if it is out of the blue. Gift cards are a particularly popular request to avoid raising suspicion.
Tips for Employees to Identify and Report Suspicious Messages
To prevent falling victim to smishing attacks, employees should follow these tips:
- Do not click on links or respond to text messages from unknown senders or ones that seem suspicious. The best thing you can do is not respond at all.
- Verify the sender's identity by contacting them directly through a trusted source, such as their official website or customer service number.
- Never provide personal information in response to a text message unless you have complete trust in the sender.
- Report suspicious messages to your employer's IT department or security team immediately.
The Crucial Role of Employee Training
While technological solutions can help detect and prevent smishing attacks, employee awareness and training are crucial in defending against them. Comprehensive and ongoing training programs can empower employees with the knowledge and skills to recognize and respond to smishing attempts.
In addition to training, building a security-conscious culture within an organization is essential. This involves promoting a sense of responsibility among employees towards protecting company data and educating them on the potential risks of social engineering attacks. Regular training sessions, quizzes, and simulations can also be effective in keeping employees engaged.
Empowering Employees with ClipTraining
At ClipTraining, we offer a comprehensive training platform that covers a wide range of topics, including cybersecurity. Our courses are designed to equip employees with the knowledge and skills to recognize and respond to smishing attempts and other types of cyber threats. Check out our live demo to learn more.
By providing ongoing and comprehensive training, businesses can empower their employees to be the first line of defense against smishing and other social engineering attacks. Remember, employee awareness is the key to defending against smishing attacks. Don't wait until it's too late—invest in training and build a security-conscious culture with ClipTraining today!