Whaling, SMiShing, and Vishing…Oh My!
Cybercriminals use types of social engineering—manipulating people into doing what they want—as the most common way to steal information and money. Social engineering is at the heart of all types of phishing attacks—those conducted via email, SMS, and phone calls. Technology makes these sorts of attacks easy and very low risk for the attacker. Make sure you're on the lookout for these variants on the traditional, mass emailed phishing attack:
- Spear phishing: This kind of attack involves often very well-crafted messages that come from what looks like a trusted VIP source, often in a hurry, targeting those who can conduct financial transactions on behalf of your organization (sometimes called "whaling").
- SMiShing: Literally, phishing attacks via SMS, these scams attempt to trick users into supplying content or clicking on links in SMS messages on their mobile devices. Flaws in how caller ID and phone number verification work make this an increasingly popular attack that is hard to stop.
- Vishing: Voice phishing, these are calls from attackers claiming to be government agencies such as the IRS, software vendors like Microsoft, or services offering to help with benefits or credit card rates. Attackers will often appear to be calling from a local number close to yours. As with SMiShing, flaws in how caller ID and phone number verification work make this a dangerous attack vector.
No matter the medium, follow these techniques to help prevent getting tricked by these social engineering attacks:
- Don't react to scare tactics: All of these attacks depend on scaring the recipient, such as with a lawsuit, that their computer is full of viruses, or that they might miss out on a chance at a great interest rate. Don't fall for it!
- Verify contacts independently: Financial transactions should always follow a defined set of procedures, which includes a way to verify legitimacy outside email or an inbound phone call. Legitimate companies and service providers will give you a real business address and a way for you to contact them back, which you can independently verify on a company website, support line, etc. Don't trust people who contact you out of the blue claiming to represent your company.
- Know the signs: Does the message/phone call start with a vague information, a generic company name like "card services," an urgent request, and/or an offer that seems impossibly good? Hang up or click that delete button!
What should you do if you believe you’re a victim?
- Report the email as phishing to Google. Next to the reply button on the far right side of the message, there is a drop-down menu where you can select “Report Phishing.” This alerts Google that the email is dangerous, and helps Google keep it out of other UA inboxes.
- If you surrendered private information or money/goods to the attacker, contact your local service desk immediately.
- If you believe your financial accounts may be compromised, contact your financial institution immediately and close the account(s).
- Watch for any unauthorized charges to your account.
Remember: University of Alaska IT Service Centers will never ask via email for any personal information. No reputable organization will either. Whether at work or at home, please be skeptical of unsolicited email, texts or phone calls that ask you for personal or financial information even if they look legitimate.
If you have specific questions or concerns please contact the service desk for your campus:
Article Courtesy of Educause Cybersecurity Awareness Campaign Program https://www.educause.edu/focus-areas-and-initiatives/policy-and-security/cybersecurity-program/awareness-campaigns