Phishing attacks aren’t nearly as successful as they used to be because by now people have learned to look out for the emails that ask them to provide sensitive details. While this is true for emails, it seems that pioneer attackers have embraced other ways of utilizing phishing attacks, namely through messaging services such as WhatsApp, Skype, and even plain old SMS.
Mobile phishing is an issue that shows no signs of abating anytime soon. According to Verizon, 90% of their recorded data breaches began with a phishing attack and right now mobile is an increasingly common attack vector.
Recent research from Wandera shows a new trend among cyber-criminals toward mobile phishing. Every day, dozens of new attacks are detected and many of them last less than a day before being shut down and relocated elsewhere. These phishing attacks share many standard features, notably centering around the use of WhatsApp.
Now that there is a widespread awareness of the dangers email-based phishing attacks bring, many savvy cyber-criminals are instead moving on to using other vectors that allow them to attack mobile devices. Many of such attacks center on WhatsApp as both the initial method of delivery and the way to reach more targets after every single success.
It isn’t just the awareness that has led to this shift. Email clients and providers have many built-in tools that identify any potential phishing emails and alert the user or automatically delete the email.
In contrast, there are no such security measures for SMS, or for app-based messaging services. Given the sheer number of different messaging apps out there, it is challenging to develop a catch-all defense against mobile phishing attacks. This results in mobile-based attacks being at least three times more effective than the phishing that takes place through desktop. Without any doubt, mobile providers should make further investments into raising cybersecurity awareness and improving it on mobile.
Unlike with phishing emails, which are often flagged as potentially malicious, there is no filtering or alert system on WhatsApp either. When a user receives a link on WhatsApp, it usually generates a preview of that website’s logo and page title. These are easy for an attacker to fake but might give a phishing message enough of a veneer of legitimacy for the user to get caught off guard.