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Tax season brought a huge wave of banking phishing scams to Chicago, Cloudmark says, urging operators to do more to protect against it - and talk more about it.

Spam in the White City

Sarah Reedy
6/19/2014
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CHICAGO -- Light Reading's Big Telecom Event 2014 -- Mobile users love to text, but you know who else loves it? Spammers, scammers, and malicious phishers.

Mobile phishing -- attempts to acquire personal info, including financial data -- has been a growing problem ever since unlimited SMS buckets became the norm, according to Neil Cook, CTO of messaging security vendor Cloudmark Inc. In honor of BTE in Chicago, the company spliced its data for us to show how phishing affected consumers here in particular. (See SMS Is Far From Dead and Stemming the Tide of SMS Spam.)

In April, 39% of Chicago-bound phishing messages were around banking schemes. Cloudmark found that these scams grew from 0% of phishing messages on April 9 to 85% on April 10, continuing to grow until peaking at 92% on April 15, before dropping off completely. You guessed it, it was phishing to celebrate tax day. The scams were primarily aimed at those Chicagoans who opted to put their refunds on an Achieve prepaid debit card.

Cook said this type of event-based spam is common, and is especially concerning because the phishing scams can look legit, come from trusted sources, and are timed in such a way that you believe they're valid. What's more, even if your bank is using a trusted broker, that broker could be using a less than stand-up company or employee somewhere along the chain. As such, it could look like it's coming from a legitimate short code when it's really scam. (See Orange France Hacked.)

"Safeguarding personal information is key to surviving in a cyber-security world," Cook said. "The more info they know about you, the more they'll spam you." And the more personalized and socially engineered it will be, he added, meaning it gets harder to discern the good from the bad. That's especially scary when health or financial information is involved. (See LTE Brings More Malware.)

The Spam Warrior
Cloudmark CTO Neil Cook: He fights spam by day and tears up the dance floor by night.
Cloudmark CTO Neil Cook: He fights spam by day and tears up the dance floor by night.

Cloudmark launched a Spam Reporting Service (SRS) two years ago with the support of the GSM Association (GSMA) that most major operators are now using. When their customers get a spam message, they forward it to 7726. The operators can use this aggregated data to block or filter out phishing scams and better understand where they come from. Cook said millions of messages have been forwarded since the program started. (See Cloudmark, Tekelec Tackle Text Spam and Cloudmark Improves SMS Security.)

He is working to get the operators to be more open about how they are protecting their networks and their customers from malicious attacks on the network too. That's been a battle as most are unwilling to talk. "People with access to personal info like Facebook and Google at least talk about their policies," Cook said.

Cloudmark also provides spam filtering software to operators to proactively cut down on phishing attempts, since Cook says protection has to stem from the network. As far as consumers are concerned, the best thing they can do is not touch a spam message they receive outside of forwarding it to 7726. Don't respond and certainly don't click on it, or you better prepare to go phishing.

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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pcharles09
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pcharles09,
User Rank: Light Beer
7/31/2014 | 9:43:10 AM
Re: Measures Against Spam To Rule Out This Cyber Security Problem
@SachinEE,

Wouldn't most people by defaut ignore messages from people they don't know. Even more likely, not respond to it?
SachinEE
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SachinEE,
User Rank: Light Sabre
7/31/2014 | 6:13:07 AM
Measures Against Spam To Rule Out This Cyber Security Problem
The increase in the cases of spam messages does not come as a shocker. There are very many mobile phone users who love to text and chat through messaging but there are also the Spammers, scammers, and malicious phishers who also love using the opportunities they get to their advantage. Mobile phishing is another illegal activity that has been going on and very many people have lost their personal information to this. Many people get a lot of spam in their inbox and their emails which are very dangerous. There is a way through which you can prevent yourself from suffering the effects of spam such as the spam filtering software.
pcharles09
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pcharles09,
User Rank: Light Beer
7/22/2014 | 9:00:56 AM
Re: oh the irony....
@Kruz,

Your provider should open a "spam hotline" where you can fwd the spam to them so they can investigate & eventually block those incoming senders.
Kruz
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Kruz,
User Rank: Light Sabre
7/1/2014 | 2:50:25 AM
Re: oh the irony....
The problem is that regulations are not tight and implemented where I live. Spammers will often send without your consent and there isn't much I can do about it once it happens.
pcharles09
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pcharles09,
User Rank: Light Beer
6/30/2014 | 5:52:35 PM
Re: oh the irony....
They'll probably tell you it was in the fine print when you signed up :(
SachinEE
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SachinEE,
User Rank: Light Sabre
6/28/2014 | 4:15:01 AM
RE: Protection against spammers
It's so disheartening that scammers and spammers are increasing in numbers all over the world with the advancement in technology. However, it's amazing to hear that IT specialists are doing something about it. I strongly agree to the fact that the safety of our personal information is the best strategy for cyber security. Besides, the availability of spam filtering software is also a great way to tackle cyber crimes. This is because it cuts down phishing attempts and any other malicious attempts.
Kruz
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Kruz,
User Rank: Light Sabre
6/25/2014 | 4:20:33 AM
Re: oh the irony....
well i didn't so whatever is happening is happening without my consent and it is really annoying.
pcharles09
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pcharles09,
User Rank: Light Beer
6/24/2014 | 9:47:10 PM
Re: oh the irony....
How did the SMS spam start? Did you sign up for mobile alerts?
SachinEE
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SachinEE,
User Rank: Light Sabre
6/24/2014 | 10:24:51 AM
Re-Protection against scammers
The fact that we must always share our mobile gadgets with spammers, scammers and other malicious people is quite devastating. I strongly agree with the fact that the only way through which we can survive in the cyber security world is through safeguarding all our personal information. I think that people should now adapt to the use of the Spam Reporting Service. Operators should also be open about the security measures that they are taking to protect both their networks and customers from malicious attacks.
Kruz
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Kruz,
User Rank: Light Sabre
6/23/2014 | 3:04:40 AM
Re: oh the irony....
I have my email spam reduced to zero using gmail. The way they created accounts based on invitation made this possible. As for mobile spam, I am constantly hammered. I know for sure that no sms I receive is directed to me as people use IM now. The solution was to add an sms blocker app on my android, this made spam a thing from the past. 
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