SMiShing, the latest threat to mobile users, was officially christened recently following a number of attacks. SMiShing is the mobile text message cousin of computer phishing attacks, where users are tricked into handing over valuable private information or persuaded to go to fake websites where spyware and other malicious programmes can be downloaded.
However, mobile spam and viruses present distinct threats from their internet-based cousins and require a different approach to prevent and control them argues Chris Newton-Smith, LogicaCMG Telecoms, and operators have a big role to play in protecting subscribers from SMiShing.
SMiShing basically takes a "social engineering" approach to spam, in that it attempts to take advantage of subscribers' lack of knowledge. This variation of spam does not directly attack handsets like a virus would. These hackers are financially driven to exploit legal loopholes and the latest technologies to get hold of personal data. Recent attacks have included false online dating subscriptions and job offers via SMS, asking users to go to websites to unsubscribe the service.
The good news is that, by its nature, a knowledgeable user can avoid the attack entirely. By recognising the message for what it is, and ignoring the instructions, any threat is immediately defused. But Chris Newton-Smith argues that ensuring users have this knowledge is an opportunity for the mobile operator. Like most spam, these messages can be recognised by an operator with the right network tools, and can be labelled upon delivery in such a way that a warning arrives at the same time as the SMiShing message, conveniently on the handset. With increasing numbers of internet enabled handsets on the market, protection of the user will become evermore important.
With the phone becoming the hub of much more than simple peer-to-peer (P2P) communication, the role of the operator as guardian of the customer experience becomes ever more complex. By stepping up to take on this role, and the responsibilities that come with it, operators are well positioned to not only stem the negative impact of poor experience (such as churn and damage to brand reputation), but to actually increase revenues as consumer confidence in next generation services grows.