Do you believe that your mobile phone is immune to hacker attacks? You might want to rethink that! It’s a common myth among Smartphone/tablet users that their gadgets are not in harm’s way. Now, this is (partially) true for “traditional” malware, as it mostly focuses on desktop computers (like the Windows-run PCs). However, there’s one emerging threat that’s an even more significant threat for mobile devices, called phishing.
Criminals use it to steal bank account numbers and logins-passwords. And no, Android or iOS won’t protect you from this. Today, we’ll talk about some tried-and-true steps that you can take to battle these types of attacks. Instead of making a list of the most reliable antivirus products and deciding which is better McAfee or Avast, the focus will be on things that you can do right now. They won’t cost you a penny but will help you to recognize a scam.
How Phishing Actually Works
The concept of phishing is pretty simple. Basically, it’s a scam where hackers mask themselves as someone they’re not. That’s achieved through email, phone calls, and social media messages. Mostly, they act like bank staff or people that you know and trust. Here are the most common scenarios:
- You get a call/email from the bank telling you about an issue (can be anything)
- A big-time tech giant warning about a problem with your active account
- Discounts, can’t-miss sales, promos, and retailer incentives
- A caller telling you about a delay with your delivery
- An important message from the IRS; note that it doesn’t demand instant payments
Once you follow a link, read a message, or open an attachment, the hacking begins. Alright, now that we’ve familiarized ourselves with the basics, let’s talk a bit more about the most common types of phishing.
Everybody is texting these days, and that makes SMS a prime target for the attackers. The best way to protect yourself from this threat is NOT to follow any suspicious links. As we already mentioned, phishing heavily relies on a user’s recklessness and how trusting he/she is. The tricky part is – the criminals do an outstanding job of creating fake copies of legit websites.
So, the URL may take you to a site that looks (almost) exactly the same as the real one. And, the second you log in, the hackers will get their hands on your password and login. Other times, the website encourages you to download an “important” document and infect the OS that way. Be highly skeptical of any SMS you receive, and consider the following:
- Spelling errors (that you don’t see in official bank messages)
- Unrealistically good offers/discounts
- Overly official: Sir, instead of your real name
- An apparent urge to sell you something as quickly as possible
If you detect any of these signs, ignore the message(s) and never reply.
Good old phone calls are also quite common and can be just as dangerous. In this scenario, the criminals contact you and pretend to be a bank representative, someone from the authorities, or maybe even a distant relative. As in the case of Smishing, there are some easy-to-recognize signs of phone phishing:
- The scammers ask you to share a PIN code, credit card number, or other types of personal/sensitive information. Real banks never do that
- Unrealistically good offers/discounts with a call to action (share your credentials with us right now to get a bonus)
- The number that’s calling you is a bit suspicious
An excellent way to deal with phone scammers is to say that you’ll call back. Usually, legit companies make another call when they don’t hear from you – phishing hackers don’t.
This is important: if you’re suspecting that there’s a criminal on the other end of that line, don’t hesitate to report the number and let pros at the FCC and the FBI (the IC3, to be exact) handle everything. The particular services aim to prevent the scams and can facilitate you with tips and information on the phone numbers.
Social Media Phishing
Last but not least, let’s talk about social media phishing. The Internet is even less regulated than the SMS traffic and phone calls. That means you can never be truly sure who you’re communicating with. On social media, it’s easier to pretend to be someone else and hack otherwise harmless accounts. Any messages that ask you to transfer money should be blocked, even if they seem to come from users you know.
Quizzes and all types of free games can be dangerous as well. They are known to collect vital info and use it to their advantage. Thus, one should be careful when downloading such a game, typing the billing info, or inserting personal data. The software can alert the user, but it is not always a case.