Messaging apps, like WhatsApp and TextNow, have grown in adoption and are now widely used by people all over the globe. These platforms enable seamless communication and instant information sharing and deliver “telephone” access via internet connections to areas without cellular reception and towers.

Like any growing, innovative technology, messaging apps are a breeding ground for cybercriminals looking to exploit unsuspecting targets through phishing and smishing tactics.

What are some of the risks associated with messaging apps? If we can understand the dangers present, we can mitigate and protect ourselves better and enhance our overall security posture.

The Growing Threat Landscape

Messaging app usage has opened up new avenues for cybercriminals to carry out malicious cyberattacks and create chaos and havoc for target users. These apps, often chosen by users for their convenience and not security, present significant challenges in terms of protecting sensitive information and personal data.

Phishing and smishing are two prevalent tactics cybercriminals deploy via messaging apps. Phishing involves tricking individuals into revealing their confidential information, such as passwords or credit card details, by posing as a trustworthy entity. Smishing is the use of phishing tactics executed via SMS or other messaging platforms, like messaging apps.

Cybercriminals leverage psychological manipulation techniques to exploit human vulnerabilities and make their messages appear legitimate. Think of it like this.

You receive a message from a colleague you interact with occasionally and may even have a cursory personal knowledge of. You receive a text message saying it’s your colleague and this is their personal phone number. The message continues to request your personal email to send you a link for a fundraiser happening at their child’s school. You know your colleague has a school-age child and you even check the area code to discern it’s the area code matching where they are from. Do you respond to the request?

Cybercriminals are using sophisticated targeting, known as spear phishing, to personalize their attacks. There’s a better chance you’d respond to that type of request and maybe even click on the “fundraiser” link once you receive it as opposed to a generic, wide-case net phishing email.

By impersonating well-known organizations or people you know, hackers and scammers can implement their typical tactics with greater success. Coercing unsuspecting individuals into taking actions that compromise their security is easier to do if the request seems legitimate.

The Importance of Cybersecurity Training

To combat the rising tide of cyber threats, cybersecurity training and cyber awareness education have become crucial components to overarching organizational cybersecurity defense strategies.

Training programs and comprehensive content architecture educate users about the risks associated with messaging apps, teaching them to recognize suspicious messages, links, or attachments. Understanding common attack vectors empowers individuals to make informed decisions, protect themselves, customers, and your organization as a whole against cybercriminals.

Cybersecurity training also emphasizes the importance of strong passwords, multi-factor authentication (MFA), and keeping software and apps up to date. These best practices add additional layers of security, making it harder for cybercriminals to gain unauthorized access to sensitive information and data.

Building Cybersecurity Awareness

Cybersecurity awareness is achieved by combining cybersecurity training content with regular testing and phishing simulations to determine if the training provided is educating users properly.

Fostering cybersecurity awareness as an organization from a cultural standpoint emphasizes its importance and builds a resilient digital ecosystem. Employees should be encouraged to adopt a proactive mindset, stay informed about the latest cyber threats and attack trends, and report suspicious activity in addition to knowing the incident response plan in place.

Awareness campaigns can be conducted to educate users about the risks posed by messaging apps and how to stay safe while using them via training email campaigns and assigning required course content on the subject.

Human Risk Management

Human risk management plays a critical role in mitigating threats posed by messaging app-based cyberattacks. By implementing effective policies and procedures, organizations can establish a security-conscious culture among staff. This includes training employees to consistently identify and report suspicious messages, encouraging open communication channels for sharing potential threats, and regularly assessing and updating security measures and best practices.

The Bottom Line

Messaging apps have revolutionized communication while simultaneously providing cybercriminals with a powerful tool to exploit unsuspecting targets.

The risks posed by phishing and smishing tactics demand increased cybersecurity training, awareness, and human risk management strategies. By equipping employees with adequate training, fostering general cybersecurity awareness, and implementing robust security measures and layered defense systems, you can collectively strengthen your organization’s defenses to combat evolving threats. Remember, stay proactive in the fight to secure your digital landscape and provide a secure digital ecosystem in the age of digital transformation!