Smartphones have become a crucial part of our everyday lives; we shop, bank and network using our phones. But with so much valuable personal data being stored on these devices, they have become a top target for cyber criminals. If they can crack our phones, they can steal our identities, blackmail us for cash, or empty our bank accounts using scams.

As a result, hackers have been developing new ways to attack – the latest using SMS text messages.

Introducing “smishing”

For some years now hackers have used a technique known as phishing – emails pretending to be from our bank that try and trick us into handing over our account details. As people have got better at spotting phishing emails, less are falling victim, which means that hackers have changed their tactics, focusing on our phones.

Smishing is very similar conceptually; instead of sending emails however, the attackers are sending SMS text messages to their victims. Each of these texts is designed to trick people into handing over sensitive personal information – like their online banking PIN number. Others will encourage them to access a fake website, or to download an app that has been infected with malware.

How to spot a smishing message

Almost every smishing message has one thing in common – a sense of urgency. You will be told that your bank account has been compromised, and you must login using the supplied link immediately. Or that a routine security check has temporarily blocked access to your account, before asking you to confirm you password to restore access. You may even be asked to download a special app to improve the security of your account, the sooner the better.

The truth is that no bank sends urgent SMS messages; most actually rely on letters and secure emails to communicate important information. If you do receive a text message from your bank, it will never include a link – you will simply be directed to logon to the website at your earliest convenience, or to call their phone banking service.

Similarly, your bank will never send you a link to a website to download a new app. They may direct you to the official App Store or Google Play store, but most will send a push notification through their official app, rather than via SMS text message.

If you are in any doubt at all about a text message you receive, delete it. If the matter is truly urgent, your bank will contact you again. You can also give them a call to confirm whether there really is a problem.

Get protected

Finally, you should always protect your smartphone with a reputable anti-malware app. In the event that you are tricked into downloading a malicious app, the anti-malware tool will conduct a scan automatically, and advise you that there is a problem before any of your personal data is stolen.

You can even protect yourself against smishing scams right now by downloading a free trial of Panda Mobile Security.