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What is Vishing and a Vishing Attack?

Vishing (voice scams), like other types of phishing, depend largely on manipulation and social engineering to get victims to hand up personal information.

Vishing is a type of fraud in which thieves impersonate an official source, such as a bank or government agency. Many phishing schemes come from countries other than your own. As a result, many vishing fraudsters would disguise their identities by using voice-to-text synthesizers and recorded communications. For more targeted scams, those operating in your own country may utilize a real human on the other end of the telephone.

Regardless of the source, most vishing attempts seek to persuade the victim to provide personal information such as PIN numbers, Social Security numbers, credit card security codes, passwords, and other identifying information. This information will then be utilized for identity theft or to steal money directly from a bank account. The vishing scammer may attempt to acquire access to personal or financial accounts (such as a bank account) in order to steal information or money in some situations.

The majority of vishing fraudsters now use a technique known as "caller ID spoofing." They can use ID spoofing to make phone calls that appear to come from a valid or localized source. As a consequence, victims may feel more motivated to pick up the phone. Should the call be ignored, many vishing fraudsters leave a pre-recorded voicemail message.

Vishing Attack

Figure 1. What is Vishing Attack

You might be wondering how a vishing scammer got your phone number to begin with. There is rarely a clear answer to that question, but there are a few possibilities. Scammers may use stolen phone numbers or call randomly generated numbers until they find a match. As a result of recent large data breaches, the chances of your phone number being stolen and floating about on the Dark Web are quite high.

How does Vishing Work?

Cybercriminal begins by conducting research on their intended victims. One example is sending phishing emails with the aim of getting someone to react and divulge their phone number. Alternatively, the perpetrator may use specialized software to phone several numbers with the same area code as the targets.

Depending on how advanced the phishing/vishing technique is, the victim is expecting a phone call. Hackers are aware that people are more likely to accept calls from numbers with a local area code.

Once the victim is on the phone, the cybercriminal will appeal to the victim's human instincts of trust, fear, greed, and a desire to help. The criminal may utilize all or just one of these social engineering strategies to persuade the victim that they are doing the right thing, depending on the vishing plan. The cybercriminal may ask for bank account information, credit card information, and a postal address, as well as specific actions from the victim, such as money transfers, sending private work-related papers or divulging corporate information.

Cybercrime isn't over yet. Now that the cybercriminal has this information, they can go on to commit further crimes. For example, a cybercriminal may drain a victim's bank account, commit identity theft, use the victim's credit card information to make illegal transactions, and then send emails to the victim's coworkers in the hopes of duping someone into exposing confidential work information.

Why are Vishing Attacks Performed?

Vishing attacks are mostly used to gather sensitive financial information or personal information from the individual who answers the phone. Physical, visible credentials, such as identification badges, driver's licenses, or access cards, can be provided in face-to-face contact. But the only way to authenticate a caller's identity over the phone is to listen to what they say. As a result, one of the key motivations for vishing attacks is that they are easier to carry out than in-person frauds.

In a recent COVID-19 story, the NSA claimed that a foreign government was seeking to collect COVID-19 vaccine formulations. Although the foreign countries disputed the charge, it's worth noting that cyber-attacks frequently originate outside of a country's boundaries. The attack might have been phishing or vishing, according to the National Public Radio story, but the aim would have been to compromise valuable papers or data for financial gain.

What are the Vishing Techniques?

The fraudulent technique of obtaining sensitive information over the phone is known as vishing. Vishing scams can be carried out over the phone, through voicemail, or via email. Hackers employ VoIP, a technology that lets you make phone calls via the Internet rather than over a traditional phone line. Caller IDs may be faked to make the call appear more real.

There are techniques you may adopt to safeguard yourself and your business from being a victim of vishing, which is on the rise. Here are four ways to avoid being a victim of a vishing attack:

1. Caller ID Spoofing

Caller ID, also known as phone spoofing, is a phone scam in which callers impersonate government officials, financial institutions, or legitimate businesses by using phony phone numbers (or "spoofs") to gain the victim's trust and obtain personally identifiable information (PII) or sensitive financial information.

The FBI's Atlanta field office issued a phone scam notice in November 2021, claiming that fraudsters were impersonating law enforcement, spoofing officers' phone numbers, and demanding payment for outstanding warrants or penalties. "The fraudsters are utilizing faked law enforcement phone numbers, as well as the identities, positions, and addresses of officers," according to the FBI advisory. The fraud is mostly aimed at women with high-paying jobs who have an internet presence."

It's simple to understand how these calls' mechanics might be deceptive. Spoofing calls are made using simple application software placed on the perpetrator's mobile phone or laptop to make outgoing calls appear to be from a legitimate source. The following are some popular spoofing instances provided by Verizon:

  • Receiving calls from a friend's or spouse's phone number while they are present and not phoning you
  • Robocalls from a phone number that sounds similar to yours
  • Requests for personal information from your bank's phone number (account numbers, account PINs, etc.)
  • Instead of the calling party's phone number, the Caller ID shows "911 Emergency."

Spoofers can use the number of the FBI, a local police department, a bank office, or even a public charity like the American Red Cross, and that number will show on your phone's caller ID. Victims who return the call will get a genuine recorded message from the agency or institution.

Unfortunately, fraudsters have found phone spoofing to be cost-effective thanks to readily available digital communications technologies. Spoofers, for example, will leverage the power of automated, recorded robocalls to reach a far larger audience of prospective victims, and will frequently conduct many fraudulent schemes at once to diversify their illegal activities. To be successful, they just require a small number of victims.

Spoofing con artists' most devious tactic is to use your phone number to try to enter your network of friends, family, and neighbors to steal their identities, money, and other valuables. Unfortunately, there is no legal protection against this type of deceit at the moment. Fortunately, the FCC has been collaborating with telecommunications companies to develop new methods for digitally validating caller IDs (through the STIR/SHAKEN authentication standards).

2. Dumpster Diving

Dumpster diving is one of the ways attackers obtain information through which they can then exploit to develop trust and perform social engineering attacks such as vishing. While attackers will seize whatever computer equipment they come across, the goal of a dumpster diving attack is usually to obtain information about a company. An attacker can utilize even seemingly benign papers. They can leverage a list of names, such as a directory or phone list, in a variety of ways. The names of employees can be used to guess their computer usernames, attack their online accounts, or steal their identities. A name list can also be used in a social engineering attack against an organization such as vishing.

In a voice phishing (vishing) attack, telephone numbers can be used with caller ID spoofing to compel an employee to give additional information. This may be used by an attacker to phone an employee and tell them a tale like, "Hello, my name is Dave, and I work in accounting. Ben, the finance director, wants some figures by evening. Anne told me to talk to you when I asked her. Are you able to assist me?"

As mentioned above dumpster diving information can be used in all kinds of social engineering attacks. For example, if attackers obtain a receipt for a vending machine replenishment service, they can pose as personnel with a name badge on the same day and time as a scheduled delivery to get access to locations not exposed to the public. Attackers might use this access to carry out a shoulder surfing attack or install a keylogger on the network to get access.

3. Wardialing

Wardialing (or war dialing) is a technique for scanning a list of phone numbers automatically, often calling every number in a local area code to look for modems, computers, bulletin board systems (computer servers), and fax machines. Hobbyists and crackers, malicious hackers who specialize in breaching computer security, use the resulting lists for a variety of purposes, including guessing user accounts (by capturing voicemail greetings) and locating modems that could provide an entry point into a computer or other electronic systems. It might also be used by security professionals to identify illegitimate equipment on a company's telephone network, such as modems or faxes.

A single wardialing call would entail dialing an unknown number and waiting for one or two rings because answering machines normally answer on the first ring. The modem hangs up and attempts the next number if the phone rings twice. The wardialer application records the number if a modem or fax machine answers. The wardialer application hangs up if a human or answering machine responds. Depending on the time of day, wardialing 10,000 numbers in a particular area code may irritate dozens or hundreds of individuals, with some attempting and failing to answer a phone in two rings, and others succeeding only to hear the wardialing modem's carrier tone and hanging up. Businesses having a large number of sequentially numbered lines in the exchange, such as those using a Centrex telephone system, may find the repeated incoming calls particularly unpleasant. Some modern wardialing software, such as WarVOX, operates without the use of a modem. Instead, such applications can take advantage of VOIP connections, which can increase the number of calls a wardialer can make.

In vishing attacks, the cybercriminal uses software to dial certain area numbers with a message involving a local bank, company, police agency, or other local entity. When the phone is answered, an automated message asks for the person's entire name, credit card number, bank account number, postal address, and even social security number. This information may be required to prove the victim's account has not been compromised or to validate genuine account data, according to the recorded message.

4. VoIP

VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) was created to assist individuals with voice-based communication over the Internet or, to put it another way, to allow users to make phone calls over the Internet. In a corporate setting, this technology is critical. Team members can utilize VoIP to communicate with one another. Customer care employees can also use VoIP to communicate with today's customers. Unfortunately, fraudsters have begun to use VoIP to lure people into revealing sensitive information such as bank account numbers. Victims' money might be taken, or worse.

Scammers can guarantee that their Internet phone number does not reveal their location when they utilize VoIP. This aids them in locating scam victims in other countries, as well as those who may refuse to take a call from an unfamiliar area code. Scammers that utilize VoIP just require a stable Internet connection to communicate with their victims. This increases the attraction of VoIP-based scamming to any hackers who live or work in places with poor coverage. In conclusion, VoIP-based phishing, also known as vishing, provides a few significant advantages for hackers.

How To Identify a Vishing Attack?

Some people find it difficult to recognize when they are being duped. However, there are various warning indicators to look for in order to detect vishing attacks.

Scammers might pose as bankers, computer specialists, police officers, or even victims in order to deceive you. You can tell if the caller is genuine by asking them for information that will help you verify their identity. It's also critical that you independently check their legality by calling the organization at an established public phone number.

Vishers might make you a "too good to be true" offer. You've probably seen a few of them before. You could have won a contest that you didn't participate in, or the visher could provide you with a once-in-a-lifetime loan or investment opportunity when a visher contacts you with a terrific offer that is both impossible and uninvited. A variant of this can call for donations to a charity cause, which appeals to your morals. In any case, the fraudster will provide you with this deceptive offer in order to persuade you to provide personal and financial information that they may subsequently use to their advantage.

A sense of urgency is another method to detect a vishing scam. Scammers exploit a feeling of urgency to get you to give them information rapidly before you realize you've been duped. When this occurs, take a few calm breaths and just jot down the information offered by the caller without divulging any personal information.

Another sign of a vishing attack is when the fraudster asks for confirmation of personal information such as your name, address, bank account information, birth date, and social security number. Scammers frequently do their own research to acquire facts that will lead you to feel they are legitimate. Their main purpose, however, is to obtain the remaining sensitive and secret information that they lack.

How to Protect from Vishing Attacks?

You can defend yourself and your company from being a victim of a vishing attack in a number of ways. Here are some ways to avoid vishing.

  • Become a member of the National Do Not Call Registry: It's free to add your home or cell phone number to this register, which informs telemarketers that you don't want their calls. Certain sorts of organizations, such as charity and political parties, may still phone you, and it will not prevent anyone from dialing your number unlawfully.
  • Do not answer the phone: Even if it's tempting to pick up every phone call, let them go to voicemail. Because caller IDs may be spoofed, you may not know who is calling. Listen to your messages before deciding whether or not to return the call.
  • Hang up: Don't feel obligated to continue a nice discussion if you believe it's a phishing call. Simply hang up and put the number on your do-not-call list.
  • Don't reply to instructions or press buttons: Don't reply to an automated message that asks you to touch buttons or answer questions. "Press 2 to be removed from our list," for example, or "Say 'yes' to speak with an operator," according to the message. Scammers frequently employ these techniques to identify potential targets for more robocalls. They may also capture your speech and utilize it later to navigate voice-activated phone menus associated with your accounts.
  • Make sure the caller is who they say they are: If the individual gives you a call-back number, don't call it since it might be a hoax. Instead, look out for the firm's official public phone number and call the company directly.
  • Never give out personal information over the phone: No matter how "professional" or confident a caller seems, be wary of anybody who asks for account numbers, PINs, login passwords, or other personal information over the phone. If you have a gut feeling you're on a vishing call, hang up. It's preferable to be safe than sorry.
  • Train your employees: Take the effort to provide frequent security awareness training to your staff on the vishing prevention methods described above. You can't afford to let your personnel be unaware of the current cyber hazards as attacks become more varied and sophisticated.

What Is the Difference Between Vishing and Phishing?

Phishing is a sort of email attack in which the attacker pretends to be from a relevant reputable company in order to get sensitive information from consumers through electronic contact. Attackers deliberately craft emails to target a certain demographic, and clicking on a link installs malicious malware on the machine.

Vishing on the other hand is a sort of cyber attack in which a group of people's personal data is stolen through voice communication. In vishing, the attacker deceives the victim into divulging important information over the phone by posing as an employee of a relevant and reputable company.

Differences between phishing and vishing are below:

  • Phishing attacks use emails to target a wide variety of people. Vishing is a type of attack that uses voice communication for the same goal.
  • It is necessary for the phishing victim to click on malicious links. The vishing victim must provide the information on their own.
  • Phishing is a computer-assisted attack. Vishing is a manual attack.
  • At a time, a single attacker can send many emails in phishing. A single attacker can make a voice call to a target one at a time.
  • Phishing attacks are carried out by cybercriminals or professional hackers. While the vishing attackers aren't hacking experts.

What is the Difference Between Vishing and Smishing?

Smishing, also known as SMS phishing, is a sort of social engineering attack used to obtain personal information, financial information, and passwords from users. Smishing is when a fraudster sends a phishing message through an SMS text message that contains a harmful link. The phishing emails persuade users to click on a malicious link, which leads to a phishing page where personal information is collected.

Vishing, also known as Voice phishing, is a sort of phone scam in which criminals utilize voice messages to collect personal information or money from their victims. As an example, victims are enticed by computerized voice recordings. Vishing sends out an automated phone call claiming that the recipient's bank account has been hacked. The voice message then instructs the receiver to dial a toll-free number. When customers dial that toll-free number, the phone keypad is used to collect the user's bank account number and other personal information. There is only one main difference between smishing and vishing

  • Smishing, often known as SMS phishing, is a sort of social engineering attack that deceives users by sending text messages. Vishing on the other hand is a sort of illegal phone fraud that involves sending voice messages to victims in order to collect personal information or money.