When it comes to mobile device security, taking the proper safety precautions while online or using social media is typically the first line of defense. This has become more important than ever, as recent rises in SIM card swapping attacks are causing concern. Here, we will discuss the risks associated with SIM card scams, signs you’ve fallen victim and essential security tips to safeguard your mobile identity.
For your smartphone to function properly, it requires a chipped card referred to as a subscriber identity module, or SIM card for short. The SIM card contains and stores the necessary data that allows you to make calls and send texts to your contacts. It is what ties your phone number to your personal device.
SIM card swapping, also referred to as SIM jacking, occurs when a scammer seizes ownership of a phone number by tricking a provider into switching a SIM card to a device that they control. This can be done through a variety of techniques, but most commonly attackers rely on social engineering tactics to successfully take ownership of your phone number without your authorization.
If scammers are able to gather enough personally identifiable information (PII) about you, whether through phishing scams, social media research or through the dark web, it could be relatively simple for them to contact your carrier, bypass security questions and successfully make the SIM card switch without you or the company’s knowledge.
If a hacker is able to port your phone number to their device, they then can gain access to your communications. They can read messages between you and your contacts, receive multi-factor authentication (MFA) codes to access your accounts or steal confidential information that is sent to you by your bank, employer, an online retailer or other organizations you do business with. That unfettered access is what makes SIM card swapping a serious threat to digital safety and security.
Stealing an individual’s SIM card for malicious use may sound like an extensive, complicated attack that seems unlikely. Yet figures from the Federal Bureau of Investigation show that reports of SIM swapping increased 26% from 2021 to 2022, and the agency reports more than $80 billion has been lost to SIM card hacking since 2018.
In some cases, it might not be immediately obvious someone has swapped your SIM card and stolen your information, but there are a few signs to look for:
Proactive measures are key to protecting yourself and your privacy against these evolving kinds of cyberattacks. Stay ahead of the risks, regularly reassess and update your personal online security practices to adapt to evolving threats.
Attackers are constantly updating their tactics, often trying to pit our own technology against us. Make sure you know the risks you may face and stay vigilant for the signs that your data may be compromised.