There is a constant (and growing) threat looming around anyone who has valuable accounts. If that isn’t bad news yet, what’s even worse is that your data might fall into the wrong hands due to the most basic thing that you own: your mobile number.
Anyone could easily fall victim to malicious hackers, who plot attacks on mobile networks or trick them into providing your phone number in order to steal information such as usernames and sell them for money. News has brought to light a group of cyber-criminals that employ a technique known as SIM swapping (also SIM hijacking) to steal Bitcoin, other cryptocurrencies and social media accounts.
With its simple and low-traceability scheme, the “port out scam” has easily spread like wildfire as it proved to be a highly lucrative technique employed by criminals who are now targeting Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency accounts.
What is SIM Hijacking?
In order for an individual to have access to another person’s usernames, accounts and other credentials via SIM hijacking, they first need to have a phone number linked to these pieces of sensitive information. Therefore, once hackers have breached or tricked cell phone network systems to provide them with users’ phone numbers, they would contact the victims’ cell phone numbers to request for new SIM cards. The hackers would then link the user’s phone number to the new SIM card and with this, reset all passwords of the user’s bank, crypto, investment, email and social media accounts as well as those linked to Amazon, Netflix, eBay, and Hulu. By doing so, the target would lose control over his/her data and activities on these accounts.
Clearly, mobile networks are partly to be blamed for this, too. One, because they easily provide cell phone numbers to such entities. And two, for being quite reluctant when requested for data on the prevalence of SIM hijacking.
What are the ways to Protect yourself from SIM Swapping?
People can’t sit idly by due to the fact that it doesn’t take highly qualified individuals with social engineering tools and tech background to pull off such a highly-damaging scam on virtually almost anyone they get their phone numbers from. Therefore, everyone must employ all security and protective measures to keep scammers at bay and away for good. Here are some tips on how we can all avoid falling victims to SIM swapping:
1. Toughen SIM-based Accounts
The first one relies on mobile networks to develop more complex security features which make it harder for hackers to get a hold of phone numbers and to take over phone-based accounts.
2. Do not Link your Phone Number to your Online Accounts
Avoid supplying information in any (online) account that would ultimately lead to your phone number, which could be targeted by hackers using the SIM hijacking scheme. Once hackers get a hold of something as basic as your phone number, they can easily gain access to your other online accounts.
3. Always update your Phone Security Settings
SMS-based verification protocols are not nearly as secure as you were made to think. Instead of this method, use token-based 2FA to heighten your defence against SIM-based threats and scams. With something as simple as a phone number, a hacker can creatively meddle with and steal even your most privileged information that could deal you so much damage. Even if they don’t meddle with your accounts, hackers can easily blackmail with information that would be most damaging to your work or personal identity for their own gain.
Either way, falling victim into such a malicious act would be the worst spot you’d want to be in. While there are plenty of factors that must be considered in order to counter scams such as SIM hijacking, especially with the angle of mobile carriers, one cannot be too cautious in securing his/her safety by other means such as the use of a reliable VPN like VPN Surf when going online for any personal or work-related activities.
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