Sim Swapping Security Threat

How SIM Swaps Bypass Your Online Security

How SIM Swaps Bypass Your Online Security

Have you ever been in the middle of an important phone call or task on your phone when you suddenly see those dreaded words, "SOS only" or "No Signal"?

Most of the time, it's simply due to poor signal strength in your area or a temporary glitch with your carrier's network. But what if losing your phone connection wasn't so innocent?

What if an unknown hacker actively removes you from your mobile number to take it over for their own malicious purposes? This is the frightening reality of a cybercrime called "SIM swapping," and it's a growing threat that has affected many unwitting victims.

How Hackers Carry Out SIM Swapping

Hackers gather personal information, such as your name, date of birth, and address, through data breaches or social engineering. They then contact your mobile carrier with enough information about you to answer the verification questions. They impersonate you and claim to have lost your SIM card.

Mobile network carriers that don't sufficiently verify customers often make it possible for a hacker to convince an employee to port your phone number to a new SIM card under their control.

This is done without triggering notifications to your devices or email addresses. Within minutes, you could find yourself disconnected from your mobile number while the hacker now receives all calls and texts intended for you. The whole process can be carried out remotely.

The Risks of Losing Access to Two-Factor Authentication

Once hackers control your phone number, they can bypass the two-factor authentication that protects many of your online accounts. Most major services send one-time verification codes via text when you attempt to log in from a new device. With your SIM swapped, these codes get diverted to the hacker.

This can then allow the hacker access to your emails, finances, cryptocurrency, and any other service that uses SMS-based two-factor authentication.

To make matters worse, restoring access to your accounts becomes a nightmare without your phone number.

Preventing SIM Swapping Attacks

Unfortunately, SIM swapping is not a new issue and may become even more prevalent as hackers develop more advanced techniques such as deepfaking. However, there are some precautions you can take:

  • Do not share personal details unnecessarily online or over the phone. Be wary of attempts at social engineering.
  • Limit what information you make publicly available on social media profiles or in public records.
  • Use authentication apps such as Google Authenticator or Authy instead of SMS-based codes wherever possible.
  • Contact your mobile carrier and ask them to put a PIN or passcode on your account as an extra security step before any changes can be made.

By taking these steps, you can help protect yourself from having your phone number and online accounts compromised by SIM swapping.

Staying vigilant about cybersecurity is important for everyone in the digital age.

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