A compromised debit card and endless illegitimate transactions – isn’t it a nightmare? Now, let’s imagine that you were having a great day with your friends at a coffee shop when suddenly, your phone begins to buzz with a non-stop debit alert. You could see the transactions coming in and your account balance dwindling, but you have no control over it. You try to call for assistance, but the line is disconnected; text messaging is also not an alternative.

Bad news! You have become the latest target of a SIM swap attack, and you are stuck — it is a nightmare. Continue reading to learn what a SIM swap is and what steps you can take to avoid one.

What is SIM Swapping?

SIM swapping is also referred to as SIM jacking. It is a deceitful method of obtaining a victim’s mobile phone number. It occurs when a criminal persuades your mobile phone service to move your mobile number to a new SIM card, generally one they own. If they thrive, you will be at a risk.

This is why malicious actors can swap your SIM card easily when they have your personal details. That being said, a successful SIM swap will discontinue your contact number, which you can only regain after visiting the phone service provider with a SIM swap claim and your details to prove that you are the account owner.

Surprisingly, the attacker does not even need technically advanced skills — your personal details, a call to your phone provider, and a new SIM card are all that is required. Even so, they must provide some personal details, which is relatively easy to obtain these days via social media profiles and sometimes even data revealed in large-scale breaches. Cyber criminals can use this data to mislead mobile phone service employees into swapping the number associated with your SIM card to the one in their hands.

Why is SIM Swapping an Area of Interest for Hackers?

Your SIM card serves as a key to many critical services. It is most usually connected to your social media profiles, your bank, email account, and more as a trusted 2FA (two-factor authentication) method. Malicious actors could sign into your bank accounts and drain it, or gain access to your social profile and damage your reputation online, worse, they can get access to your personal data and blackmail you to pay ransom. Whatever the end goal is, it is you at disposal with all of this information and access. It makes it super convenient for them to defraud your family and friends.

2FA is intended to improve online security. Instead of simply entering a password to access internet accounts, 2FA allows the user to enter a time-limited password before obtaining full access. It is popular due to the added security it offers, as threat actors must regulate both your passcodes and your 2FA in order to access your accounts.

Regrettably, the system’s resilience is also its weak point. Verification codes are typically sent via texts, email, calls, and authentication apps, implying that entry is granted to whoever has your SIM card or mobile. This is in contrast to biometric or face recognition, which involve your physical presence. Cyber criminals are aware of this and attempt to exploit it when they gain access to your cell phone.

How to Detect a SIM Swap Attack?

SIM Swap detection is quite easy. The sooner you can gain access back to your phone number the better. If you observe any of the following warning signs, notify your mobile phone vendor instantly as you may be under a SIM swap attack.

  1. You are unable to access your device’s account online.
  2. Even if you have good reception, your mobile loses service or you are not receiving texts or calls.
  3. You are receiving phone service notices for activities that you did not perform.

How to Prevent a SIM Swap Attack?

Start by limiting the personal details you share online; for instance, avoid sharing your full name, mobile phone number, pet name, mother’s maiden name, or address. Next step is  to avoid oversharing information that you used to answer security questions to verify your identity.

When it gets to 2FA, you should think seriously about relying solely on text messages and phone calls. Use a 2FA method, such as a hardware verification device or an authorization app.

Some SIM swap prevention methods that can help you protect your phone numbers from SIM swap attacks are as follows:

  • SMS should not be used for communication since the interaction is not secured.
  • Private details used to protect accounts should be kept private.
  • Use every major US mobile service provider’s option to create a different login passcode for your mobile phone number.
  • Identify the types of alerts set up for every account to identify false login attempts.
  • Download authenticator apps such as Authy and Google Authenticator to link up the cellular device for 2FA.
  • Remove cell phone numbers from the internet where they are no longer required.
  • Get Efani to protect yourself from SIM swap scams.

Keep a checklist of these seven suggestions and start implementing as many as you can to lessen the probability of your SIM card getting hacked and misused.

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