Due to our increased digital footprint and the growing sophistication of cyberthreats, cybersecurity is an ongoing issue. One of the recent types of cyberattacks is the notorious vishing attack. According to a report published by IBM’s X-Force, vishing attacks have rapidly increased in the last few years. For instance, in 2022 alone, these attacks so far account for 41% of all cyber frauds.
Don’t worry, I’m here to help you out. In this article, I’ll explain what vishing attacks are, how they work, common examples, and how to prevent them. Let’s start with a definition.
What Is a Vishing Attack?
A vishing, or voice phishing attack, is a cyberattack where attackers use voice-altering software and fraudulent phone numbers to extract sensitive information from victims. This information can include passwords, bank account details, etc. As you may have guessed, these attacks are similar to phishing and smishing attacks, with minor differences. Before continuing, let’s quickly touch upon the differences between the three.
Differences between Vishing, Phishing, and Smishing Attacks
It’s important to note that all three attacks have the same goal: to obtain sensitive information from users for financial gain. However, their differences lie in the medium used. As previously mentioned, vishing attacks happen over the phone. On the other hand, phishing attacks occur through emails, while smishing attacks happen through SMS messages.
Now that you understand the differences between the three, let’s dive deeper into how cyberattackers carry out vishing attacks.
How Does a Cyberattacker Carry Out a Vishing Attack?
A cyberattacker will often call and introduce themselves as a figure of authority from a reputable institution. Then, they’ll try to convince the victim that their money is at stake. The attackers claim the victim has to provide account information for further processing.
For instance, the attacker might claim that the victim recently received an IRS refund. The attacker will then request bank account details to “deposit” the money into the victim’s bank account. But in reality, they’ll just empty that bank account. A cyberattacker can also use a victim’s sensitive information to commit identity theft.
Unfortunately, victims can and do fall for these rudimentary scams. Cyberattackers are deceptive and manipulative individuals—they have a high level of skill in smooth-talking. Overall, this just enforces the deadly nature of a vishing attack.
Let’s now look at some common examples of vishing attacks.
Common Vishing Attack Examples
Vishing attacks are social engineering attacks. To clarify, an attacker doesn’t just call a victim randomly. Instead, they use a strategic approach to learn more about their victim. Typically, they go through a victim’s social media profiles and devise a “tailored” strategy for them. Let’s look at some examples.
If a victim receives social security or other benefits, the attacker can disguise themselves as a government representative to extract this information. The attacker can “claim” that they require this information for verification purposes so that the victim can continue to receive these benefits.
Online Payment Gateway
Sometimes, a cyberattacker can claim to be a customer support representative from companies like Google, Apple, or Amazon. They tell their victims they noticed or were checking for unusual activity in their digital wallets. The “representative” will then ask for passwords and PINs to access these wallets.
This is probably the most common type of attack in this list. Here, the attacker disguises themselves as a bank manager and claims the victim’s account had some fraudulent transactions. The attacker can also claim that the bank received a check and that they want to deposit it into the victim’s account.
In this example, cybercriminals claim to be tech support representatives from companies like Microsoft. They’ll talk in-depth about viruses found on a victim’s device. Then, they’ll ask the victim to install specific antivirus software that they’ll send over email. The link they send contains malware or other malicious viruses that can infect the victim’s device.
These examples can go on, but you now know the deadly nature of vishing attacks. So, how can you prevent them? I’ll go over that next!
3 Tips to Prevent Vishing Attacks as an Individual
This section seeks to educate you as an individual on how you can prevent vishing attacks. You’ll find some tips and tricks you can implement to avoid being a potential victim. Let’s explore these further.
1. Stay Aware of Your Conversation
Maintain awareness at all times if a suspicious individual calls you. Remember that cyberattackers can pose as almost anyone over the phone. Always double-check with the concerned organization before proceeding further with the call.
2. Avoid Revealing Sensitive Information
You should avoid revealing any information about yourself over the phone. This tip doesn’t just relate to your bank account details and PINs. In fact, you shouldn’t reveal any type of information over the phone. This includes your home address and any other personal information about yourself. Remember that no legitimate organization will call and ask for your personal information over the phone.
3. Accept Calls from Trusted Callers Only
It’s best to avoid answering calls from suspicious numbers. Instead, allow your callers to leave a voicemail. You can respond later if you think it’s pertinent. Cyberattackers will never leave a voicemail. You can even register your phone number in the Do Not Call registry to avoid receiving calls from spam numbers.
Next, I’ll discuss how to prevent vishing attacks as an organization.
3 Tips to Prevent Vishing Attacks as an Organization
When it comes to vishing attacks, cybercriminals can also target organizations. Here are some ways to prevent these attacks from occurring within your organization.
1. Educate Your Employees
As a first step, educate your employees on vishing attacks. Show them how cybercriminals can use these attacks to extract sensitive information. And you should also remind them that no manager or CEO will ever contact them over the phone to ask for information.
2. Take Advantage of the Do Not Call Registry
Make sure to add all office phone numbers, including mobile devices, to the Do Not Call registry in your organization. Additionally, you should encourage your employees to also register their numbers in this registry. Overall, these actions will drastically lower the chances of a vishing attack.
3. Limit Access to Sensitive Information
In general, it’s a good practice to streamline and restrict access to sensitive documents in your organization. These documents can include anything that contains employee information and other business-critical information.
You’ve come far on your journey, haven’t you? I think it’s now time to wrap things up!
To conclude, cyberthreats come in many forms, including phone calls. Cyberattackers often disguise themselves as authority figures, such as bank managers, to trick you into revealing sensitive information. In some cases, they can use this information for financial gain or to commit identity theft.
You can do several things to avoid being a victim of this attack. For instance, you can avoid answering calls from unknown numbers. As an organization, you can educate your employees on the deadly nature of vishing attacks. I highlighted several more tips and tricks in the article itself. Using this information, you can create a more secure environment for yourself and your employees.
Do you have more questions about vishing attacks? Check out the FAQ and Resources sections below!
Are vishing and phishing attacks the same?
No, they’re not the same, though both are social engineering attacks. Cyberattacks use phishing attacks to target victims through emails. On the other hand, they use vishing attacks through phone calls.
Do vishing cyberattackers target organizations?
Yes, they do this to extract the personal information of the organization’s employees. More importantly, cyberattackers can use vishing attacks to drain out the company’s funds.
Are vishing attacks common?
Yes, they’re very common. Statistics show that the percentage of vishing attacks increased from 17.8% in 2021 to 53.2% in 2022. This shows that cybercriminals find voice calls a more alluring medium when committing their heinous acts.
Can I report a vishing attack?
Yes, you can report a vishing attack to your local cybercrime cell. In the UK, you can report the crime to Action Fraud. For the US, you can call the Federal Trade Commission. You can also check your local cyber reporting cell for more details and the complaint process.
What can I do to avoid becoming a victim of a vishing attack?
Well, for one, you can register your number in the Do Not Call registry. You should also avoid answering calls from suspicious numbers. Instead, allow them to leave a voicemail, and you can call back if necessary later. And finally, as a rule of thumb, never provide any kind of personal information to anyone over the phone.
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