New SMS Phishing Campaigns Spotted: Attackers Bobbing for Apples?

Phishing scams continue to enjoy marked success worldwide. As noted by the Better Business Bureau (BBB), a new wave of emails recently targeted users of the hugely popular “Pokemon Go” app, claiming their accounts will be frozen if they don’t immediately upgrade.

Not content with emails alone, however, enterprising cybercriminals have started smishing campaigns — SMS messages with malicious links — to grab account details. According to Softpedia, the latest targets of SMS phishing are iOS users; more than 7,500 users were compromised over the last week as malicious actors went bobbing for Apples.

SMS Phishing on the Rise

While it accounts for only a fraction of all phishing activity, smishing is on the rise. More and more users are passing on desktops and laptops in favor of mobile devices. For cybercriminals, this means a missed opportunity unless they can adapt.

Infected SMS texts are the lowest hanging fruit here. Attackers simply repurpose all or part of a phishing email, fire it off to random numbers and see who bites. Typically, these messages contain a Bitly or other shortened URL link that looks legitimate.

Once clicked, users are taken to an official-looking webpage warning they must immediately verify their banking, email or e-commerce details or risk being locked out of their accounts. Of course, these pages are just fronts for web servers designed to steal user login and password data.

Android has been on the SMS phishing radar for several months. In April, Hackread reported on malware known as RuMMS, which used a set of infected subdomains registered with a legitimate domain name to dupe Russian users.

If victims clicked on the SMS link, the malware was immediately installed on their phones. It then asked for admin permissions, which it used to delete all traces of its existence. The program remains running in the background, however, sending out device information to a C&C server along with SMS messages to the victim’s bank asking about account balances.

A Juicy Target

While these SMS phishing campaigns haven’t historically targeted iOS devices, there’s now an uptick in Apple issues as attackers realize that SMS attacks aren’t governed by the same kind of gatekeeping that guards the App Store or iOS platform itself.

As noted by Tom’s Guide, cybercriminals have clearly copied another phishing attack — complete with email format and subject fields like FRM, SUBJ and MSG. What’s more, the text also asks users not to mark it as spam.

As smishing goes, it’s hardly the most advanced attack. Still, more than 7,500 users who clicked on the link were taken to a “very convincing copy of an Apple verification page,” which included Apple’s familiar color scheme and logo.

While it’s not clear how many users (if any) were actually duped by the attack, the object matters more than the outcome: Apple devices are now juicy targets for smishing campaigns looking to expand their impact.

The more mobile users, the greater the chances of getting smished. Expect volume to ramp up as attackers verify that these techniques work in the wild. For users, longstanding email best practices still apply: Leave unknown links alone to keep Apples away from hungry cybercriminals.

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Douglas Bonderud

Freelance Writer

A freelance writer for three years, Doug Bonderud is a Western Canadian with expertise in the fields of technology and...