What Is Smishing?

A Primer on Smishing (SMS Phishing)

SMS phishing is a phishing technique that leverages text messages to trick individuals into exposing sensitive information, which is then used by cybercriminals to inflict extensive damage on businesses and individuals.

Such sensitive information could include:

  • Usernames, passwords, credit card numbers, or other confidential data,
  • Or private information like email addresses, phone numbers, bank account details, and social security numbers.

Smishing scams infiltrate through "texting attacks" on your mobile phones by gaining access to your SMS messaging apps.

Definition of Smishing

Smishing, in cybersecurity, involves social engineering tactics in text messages. Smishing text messages deceive recipients into revealing sensitive data by clicking on malicious links, or installing malware.

How Does Smishing Work?

In smishing, human trust is exploited, making them easily vulnerable to fraud. Attackers send seemingly legitimate messages, often imitating reputable organizations, financial institutions, government agencies, or contacts, to create a false sense of urgency or importance.

These messages typically contain malicious links or entice the recipient to respond with sensitive information.

Types of Smishing Attacks

  1. Malware-embedded: This variant involves sending text messages containing links that, when clicked, install malware on the recipient's device. The malware may enable unauthorized access or compromise the device's security.
  2. URL Spoofing: URL spoofing involves sending messages with hyperlinks that appear legitimate but redirect recipients to fraudulent websites designed to steal sensitive information.

Smishing vs. Phishing vs. Vishing

Smishing and phishing both trick people, but phishing uses more methods and often involves emails.

Smishing and vishing share similarities in using commonly used communication channels for deception with a difference - vishing relies on voice communication, typically over phone calls.

Smishing Examples

For better awareness and smishing protection, you need to know about the common ways smishers use text messaging apps to lure recipients of money or personal data.

Example 1: Fake Banking Alerts

Attackers send text messages spoofing a bank, claiming there is suspicious activity on the recipient's account. The message urges the individual to click a link and provide login credentials, unknowingly giving access to their account.

Sender: AxesBankAlerts

Message: Urgent: Unusual activity detected on your account. To secure your funds, click [malicious-link] and log in now. Failure to do so may result in account suspension.

In this example:

  • Using a generic but official-sounding term, the sender's name is designed to mimic rightfulness. The real bank's name is “Axis Bank.”
  • The message employs urgency, warning the recipient of supposed unusual activity to prompt quick action.
  • A clickable link leads to a fake website that aims to steal important information from the person who clicks on it.

Real banks usually send important information through secure channels or official apps, not just text messages.

Example 2: Prize Winnings Scam

This is one of the oldest scams, but people still fall for it. Recipients receive messages proclaiming they've won a prize or lottery. To claim the winnings, they are redirected to follow a link and provide personal information, falling victim to identity theft.

Sender: LuckyDrawWinners

Message: Congratulations! You've won $10,000 in our exclusive prize draw. Click [malicious-link] to claim your winnings now. Offer valid for the next 24 hours.

In this scenario:

  • The sender adopts an official-sounding name to give an appearance of authenticity.
  • The message aims to evoke excitement and urgency, notifying the recipient of an unexpected windfall.
  • The provided hyperlink, if clicked, directs the recipient to a fraudulent website or prompts the download of malicious content.

Example 3: Confirmation or Renewal Scam

Scammers send messages to users claiming their subscription is ending. They ask for information to renew or confirm the service. However, once the victim enters the details, the criminal will steal and use them to their advantage.

Sender: AmozonAccountServices

Message: Action Required: Your account needs immediate confirmation. Click [malicious-link] to verify your details and avoid service interruption.

In this instance:

  • The message emphasizes urgency, suggesting immediate action is necessary to prevent a supposed service interruption.
  • The included hyperlink, if clicked, may lead to a fraudulent website designed to capture sensitive information.

How to Identify and Prevent Smishing Attacks?

How to Detect Smishing Scams?

  1. Verify the Sender: Confirm the legitimacy by cross-referencing contact details with official sources.
  2. Check for Tone: Be cautious of messages creating a sense of urgency or threats, common tactics used by smishers.
  3. Scrutinize URLs: Hover over links to preview the actual URL before clicking. Be wary of misspelled or suspicious domain names.

How to Prevent Smishing Attacks?

  1. Enable Two-Factor Authentication (2FA): Adding an extra layer of security through 2FA reduces the impact of compromised credentials.
  2. Educate Users: Raise awareness among users about tactics, encourage skepticism toward unwelcome messages, and implement smishing protection protocols beforehand.
  3. Use Security Software: Install reputable security software on devices to detect and block smishing attempts.


Q1: Is smishing a form of phishing?

Yes, it is a subset of phishing that relies on text messages for deceptive activities.

Q2: How does smishing work in cyber security?

It works by exploiting the trust individuals place in text messages. Attackers use deceptive messages to trick recipients into divulging sensitive information or performing actions that compromise their security.

Q3: How to respond to smishing?

If you receive a suspicious text message, do not respond or click on any links. Instead, check if the sender is real using official sources and inform your company's IT security team. Be continuously informed on the newest smishing protection techniques and best practices.