What is Cyber Vishing?

Haseeb Awan
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December 11, 2022
Modified On
April 18, 2023


Introduction

Vishing scams or voice phishing scams have been a part of the cyber-attacks list for a long time. They are similar to phishing, as they achieve the same purpose but the methods to go about vishing differ. Vishing threats have costed people millions of dollars so far. People can sometimes recover their money, but sometimes they end up suffering from the losses.

Vishing has evolved immensely over the years. Even though people are more aware of scams, sometimes the attacks are so sophisticated that even people with relevant awareness end up falling for them and losing money. You need more information on vishing tactics to understand vishing and how to prevent it. 

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What are Vishing Scams?

Vishing scams use voice calls to scam people into giving their personal information to criminals, who often use it to their advantage. The most common reason to perform vishing scams is to get money out of individuals. This is why bank account and credit card information is the most commonly extracted information from people who fall prey to vishing scams. 

People committing acts of vishing often pose as important people, such as government authorities and authorities from banks and other important organizations. They scare the victim and sometimes persuade them with other means to give information to the caller that the caller can easily hold against them. They sometimes use voice calls as well, using vishing threats on the voice call, asking the individual to call back on their number. They threaten the victims with the possibility of arrests, shutting down their bank accounts, or other consequences if they do not heed their instructions. 

To make the vishing attack even more convincing, the attackers often pretend to be from authorities that are relevant in the season. For example, they could pose as IRS agents when it is tax season, and they may pose as law enforcement agents if rates of crime are rising in the area. When attackers use such sneaky measures, it naturally becomes much more difficult for people, especially inexperienced people, to recognize that they are being scammed. 

It is also important to remember that vishing attacks target organizations and individuals. While individuals often get back what they lost from the attack, especially if it was credit card-related, organizations that fall prey to vishing scams often incur heavy losses from these attacks. Therefore, awareness about these scams and what one can do to prevent them are crucial today.

Is Vishing Different from Phishing?

Vishing and phishing achieve the same purpose: scamming people out of valuable information and then using it against them. Both kinds of attacks also involve the attackers posing as authorities or reward-givers to ensure the victim falls into their trap. The main difference is that phishing scams use emails, while vishing scams only use phone calls. Because the main method of scamming is different for both types of attacks, there are some key differences that arise between them. 

How Serious Can a Vishing Attack Be?

According to CNBC, Americans lost around $29.8 billion to vishing scams between 2020 and 2021. This shows how serious the vishing problem is and how sophisticated and comprehensive these attacks have become over the years. It's not like people scam an organization out of a billion dollars all at once; the number is compounded from all the attacks that took place over the year. 

Vishing scams can be small, asking the victim for as little as $50 at a time. Or these attacks can be on a much larger scale, scamming people and companies out of millions of dollars each time. And this is because vishing happens at every scale. Small-time cyber-criminals who are only starting out can perform small-scale vishing, and even seasoned criminals running crime circles also take part in vishing threats and attacks. 

If people do not have the proper awareness about these attacks and how they can affect people, they can lose their assets and suffer immensely in the process. 

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Why do People Commit Vishing Attacks?

People commit vishing attacks to steal valuable information from their victims. This information is usually of some use to the attacker, like bank account information which can allow the attacker to steal everything from the account in question, or credit card information, which serves a similar purpose. Even identities are stolen with the help of vishing attacks, which the attackers utilize for their own benefit. 

It is a crime like any other since it benefits the party that wants to make money or gain access to helpful information through unlawful means while the victim suffers. When vishing attacks are detected, criminals are arrested, or appropriate action is taken against them. However, the problem with cybercrime these days is that most of the attackers are so seasoned that it is difficult to catch them in the act.

What is Social Engineering and How Does it Help Vishing Attacks?

Social engineering plays a significant part in how vishing attacks are curated and carried out. In fact, vishing is one type of social engineering attack that scams people out of money and assets. 

Social engineering makes use of human interactions to perform malicious activities. These engineers use psychologically manipulative tactics to trick the victims into giving away their passwords and other sensitive information. 

Social engineers also know how to choose their victims carefully. When people know they are not supposed to give away information quickly, they often avoid falling prey to these tactics. But many people use information from many gullible people, such as people in their old age, who need to get used to technology.

The concept of social engineering is very carefully crafted. The practice is performed in steps, and a plan is formed through each step which helps the perpetrator come up with their attack. This is especially useful for vishing since the attacker will often not launch their attack with the first phone call. They might spend the first few phone calls trying to win the trust of the victim and conditioning their mind so that they can easily relinquish information to the attacker. 

To carry out a comprehensive vishing attack, the attacker often performs a background check on the victim. They figure out everything they can about the victim and identify the possible points of entry that can help them carry out their attack. Other than that, they also identify security weaknesses in the individual's personal accounts to understand precisely where they can launch their attack. 

The background check allows the attacker to enter the individual's life smoothly and condition them into giving up personal information. The conditioning often requires a carefully crafted story and an interaction with a very compelling narrative. Sometimes the victim is even made to believe that they are doing this for a good cause. Therefore, social engineering uses human vulnerabilities, which are much harder to track than a system malfunction or a hacking attack. 

Once the attacker has the information they need, they must execute their plan swiftly and smoothly. They need to do so without arousing any suspicion for a specific time. After the attack has concluded, the attacker must exit the system, and they need to do so while covering their tracks and naturally concluding the entire event. 

All the planning and plotting that goes into the pivotal human interaction that allows for the execution of the attack is known as social engineering. It is a crucial part of many vishing attacks and allows people to steal millions at once.

Of course, not all vishing attacks use so much social engineering. Especially when a scam of a smaller scale is involved, the attackers rely on scamming a large number of people before they get to their target and get a small amount of money rather than launch a carefully planned attack which can cause organizations and people to incur heavy losses. 

Common Vishing Attacks

Vishing attacks make use of voice calls and messages, but there are different types of these attacks. People often execute vishing detection once the scam is complete, but knowing different types of attacks can often allow people to detect an attack before it affects them. Some of the most common types of vishing scams include the following:

VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol)

A common yet hazardous type of vishing attack makes use of VoIP. VoIP makes vishing detection extra tricky because the attackers can easily create fake numbers that are very hard to detect. These numbers can even have a 1-800 prefix or impersonate government authorities, hospitals, and law enforcement agency numbers. Therefore, even people experienced with cybercrime sometimes fall prey to them. The official-looking numbers are enough proof for most people that the call is legitimate. 

Wardialing

Wardialing uses aut messages, which also makes vishing detection quite tricky for most people. The automated messages use a recording that seems to be coming from banks or other local authorities, trying to convince the individual that their accounts may have been compromised. The call tricks people into giving away their information, from bank account details to mailing addresses and even social security numbers. 

Dumpster Diving 

This is quite a literal term since dumpster diving actually involves individuals going through dumpsters behind banks and office buildings, looking for contact details and valuable information on individuals that they can launch their vishing attack on. While the practice is entirely based on luck, some criminals get very lucky and can launch an all-out attack with the help of the information. 

Caller ID Spoofing

This is similar to VoIP, where the attacker uses a fake phone number to scam the individual. The caller ID may read “Unknown” or pose as a local authority such as government individuals and tax agents. This also makes it very easy for individuals to fall prey to the attack. 

Tech Support Call

These calls often do not directly go for an individual’s account details, but the aim of these calls is to install malware into the victim’s system. They can do this by getting remote access to the individual’s system or by asking them to install something from an email. In some ways, this is a combination of a vishing and phishing attack. 

Voice Mail Scam

Voice mail vishing makes use of a threatening or alarming voicemail on the victim’s device, which compels them to call the number back and hand over some of their sensitive information. 

In a modern twist, some new voicemail scams are also in the market. They make use of an email with a voicemail attachment, which installs malware on the victim's system. 

How to Prevent Vishing Attacks?

Vishing attacks can be pretty terrifying. Since they can also be practiced on such a large scale, it is only understandable when people fear vishing attacks robbing them blind. We have also seen how people use manipulative tactics like social engineering to get their way. 

So, is there really any way to prevent vishing? Let us find out.

Using Multi-Factor Authentication

Multi-factor authentication is one of the best ways for an individual to prevent vishing attacks. Phishing and vishing attacks both heavily rely on the dependence of passwords. A single passcode is often the only layer of protection between the attacker and valuable data. With the sophistication of cyber-attacks in the modern world, authorities have now determined that this is not enough anymore. 

Therefore, multi-factor authentication is crucial for protection against all kinds of scams. It uses a password, and then a code sent to the individual's phone as a message or email, which further verifies their entry into the account. 

The problem with vishing is that the attackers can sometimes surpass this method to prevent vishing attacks by asking for the verification code. But it is often warned on the relevant platforms that the individual is supposed to keep the code private, which helps them make smarter decisions. 

Even so, the use of multi-factor authentication by itself jacks up security to a great degree. 

Learning Vishing Detection

People and organizations need to learn about sophisticated vishing attacks at present. When people know how a vishing attack is conducted, they can identify it when it happens to them and then take appropriate action to prevent them. 

People should make sure that they never provide any sensitive information to anyone over the phone or through text messages. Banks and other authorities often alert people constantly about how they will never ask for such sensitive information over the phone. 

Remember, if the caller sounds urgent or is trying to rush you, that is a major tell-tale sign of an attacker. If you are suspicious of a call, try to call the number they used with another phone, to ensure that they are not using a fake number. 

On that note, if you have a hunch that a call is suspicious, do not give them any information. There is no urgency that your details alone will be able to curb, so if you have a hunch like that, follow it.  

Phishing Simulations

The best way to learn about common phishing and vishing techniques is through phishing simulation. The exercise helps individuals to recognize vishing attacks and what can be done about them.  

People need to learn about the manipulative language used to psychologically condition an individual for the attack to succeed.

Organizations can instill a cyber-security culture in their office, which can help to create awareness regarding vishing attacks. The organization must know how vulnerable its employees are to falling prey to these attacks and what can be done to prevent such situations. 

Furthermore, employees should be on high alert for vishing attacks and be trained to protect valuable personal and company information from potential attackers. This is also why it is crucial to meet the essential security obligations of any company. 

Conclusion

Vishing Scams are carried out on small and large scales, aiming to attack individuals and steal money and private information. As technology and cyber-security have progressed, vishing scammers are using more comprehensive ways to attack individuals and steal their information. These scams can leave people suffering and are sometimes very difficult to catch. People need to recognize signs of vishing scams so that they are less likely to fall prey to these attacks. 

Haseeb Awan
CEO, Efani Secure Mobile

I founded Efani after being Sim Swapped 4 times. I am an experienced CEO with a demonstrated history of working in the crypto and cybersecurity industry. I provide Secure Mobile Service for influential people to protect them against SIM Swaps, eavesdropping, location tracking, and other mobile security threats. I've been covered in New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Mashable, Hulu, Nasdaq, Netflix, Techcrunch, Coindesk, etc. Contact me at 855-55-EFANI or haseebawan@efani.com for a confidential assessment to see if we're the right fit!

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