SMS spoofing involves altering sender information for fraudulent purposes, such as a phone number and contact name. A spoof text cannot be responded to or blocked. SMS spoofing is based entirely on impersonation.
You get a spoof text message from someone you believe to know, but something doesn’t seem right upon closer inspection. The name and mobile number are not identical to those in people’s contact lists; they are just similar.
Cybersecurity attacks are increasing rapidly. Phishing and similar fraud like spoofing was the most prevalent type of cybercrime reported to the U.S. Internet Crime Complaint Center in 2021, affecting almost 324 thousand people.
Interesting? Perhaps, yes. However thrilling as it sounds, this capability is unquestionably harmful when used incorrectly.
How Does SMS Spoofing Work?
You might think that SMS spoofing is a 21st-century issue, but you might be surprised to learn that its origins are believed to trace back many decades. An Egyptian commander named Sultan Baybars successfully took the powerful Krak des Chevaliers in 1271 by giving the besieged knights a counterfeit letter from their commander and ordering them to submit. In the end, the knights gave up and discovered that the letter was fake.
SMS spoofing works by disguising the real sender’s phone number in an SMS text message so that it appears to come from a different device. This can be done in two ways:
- You can send an SMS message from your victim’s phone to someone you want to communicate with. This will trick the recipient into thinking the message comes from someone you know, such as a friend or colleague.
- You can send an SMS message from another person’s phone number to someone you want to communicate with. This will also trick the recipient into thinking the message comes from someone else, such as a friend or colleague.
Smishing and SMS Spoofing: What’s the Difference?
SMS spoofing and smishing are two types of scams that use spoof text messages to obtain sensitive information from unsuspecting victims. They both rely on social engineering techniques but differ in how they target you.
SMS spoofing occurs when a hacker sends an SMS message from an unrecognizable number. The message may appear to be from someone you know, or it could come from a company or organization you trust. These attacks aim to trick you into replying or clicking on a link that will download malware onto your phone or computer.
Smishing is similar to SMS spoofing, but hackers send out fake emails with malicious links embedded in them instead of using text messages. If you click on the link, it will either try to install malware on your device or take you to a phony website where you’ll be asked for personal information like credit card numbers and social security numbers.
What is an SMS Spoofing Attack Vector?
SMS spoofing attack vectors pretend to be messages from a reliable source to trick mobile phone users into disclosing their personal information. An email message with a link or executable file is typically used to spread this attack. As soon as the button is pressed, the attacker can access the victim’s messages and send them on their behalf. One way to avoid this is to accept messages only from trusted companies that use a reliable SMS and email marketing platform.
For victims to provide, send, or divulge confidential information readily, it is necessary to make them believe they are speaking with a trusted friend or family member. This technique can impersonate multiple people simultaneously, depending on the number of concurrent recipients and the spoofing attack vector.
Types of SMS Spoofing
There are many different types of SMS spoofing, including:
1. Fake Sender IDs
The most common type of spoofing is replacing the real sender ID with another number or name. This allows scammers to appear as someone else — like your bank or credit card company — and trick you into giving up personal information or downloading malicious software. They can also spoof caller ID by making fake calls in addition to spoofing text messages.
2. Unsolicited Bulk Messages (UBMs)
UBMs are unsolicited texts that appear to come from someone you know but come from an unknown source. These messages might include links to malicious websites, phishing attacks, and other scams designed to steal personal information from mobile devices.
This type of SMS spoofing usually involves sending threatening or inappropriate messages to other people. It’s often used by stalkers, bullies, and cyberbullies who want to intimidate their victims. Some harassers will use this method to try and extort money from their victims by threatening them with consequences if they don’t pay up.
4. Fake Money Transfers
This could involve sending an email that claims that you’ve won an award for you to transfer some money into an account so it can be given to charity, for example. Or it could be a more sinister kind of scam where hackers try to steal your personal information by claiming that you’ve won a prize but then ask for your bank details so they can deposit it into your account.
5. Corporate Espionage
In this attack, a hacker will send an SMS message to your mobile phone with a link to a malicious website. When you click on that link, it will redirect you to another site and steal your personal information and credentials, which the attacker can use to access company resources or steal money from you.
SMS Spoofing: What Are the Legitimate Uses?
The legitimate uses of SMS spoofing include bulk messaging services, official messages, and identity protection.
Bulk Messaging Services
SMS spoofing can send bulk messages to multiple recipients at once. This is particularly useful for businesses that want to reach out to customers cost-effectively.
Government agencies also use SMS spoofing to send important notifications such as tax deadlines or warnings about natural disasters. When sending these messages, they must come from an official source so people know they’re legitimate and not scams.
Companies like Equifax use this technology to protect their customers’ identities. Suppose someone tries calling or emailing you pretending to be from Equifax with a call-back number. In that case, you can easily verify whether or not it’s real by calling the number on your phone rather than putting in any personal information over the phone or the Internet.
What Should Users Do To Protect Themselves From SMS Spoofing?
- Be wary of any unsolicited text messages you receive on your mobile device, and do not open any links in those messages. If you open a link, make sure you visit the actual website it claims to be from by typing the URL into your browser.
- Do not reply to text messages asking for personal information such as account numbers or passwords. If you receive one of these messages, delete it immediately without replying.
- Contact your mobile service provider if you receive an SMS message requesting money or personal information.
Nobody is completely secure against spoofing. You should always report scammers who harass you or use your number for spoofing to your carrier and police enforcement so they can find out where the messages originated. By doing this, SMS spoofing can be avoided in the future. To ensure that you won’t get another SMS from the scammer, you can use download SMS blockers.
Additionally, it’s necessary to be aware and guard against other spoofing risks, including email spoofing and direct domain spoofing assaults that could harm your reputation. Check out our comprehensive guide to email spoofing security to be safe from future attacks.