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Beware of attacks on SIM cards (SIM interception)

74   |     /   Security
Beware of attacks on SIM cards (SIM interception)
A SIM attack, also known as a SIM interception attack, is a form of identity theft in which an attacker convinces the owner of a cell phone to switch the victim’s phone number to a new device to gain access to bank accounts, credit card numbers and other confidential information. Relatively new and growing attacks on SIM cards are becoming increasingly popular due to the growing reliance on authentication methods on cell phones.



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Cell phone SIM cards are used to store user information and communicate with the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM). Without a SIM card, devices cannot be registered to an account, network, or subscription. Compromising a SIM card, this introduces a type of attack that does not affect the programming of the device at all, but rather disables it remotely, and the victim has no idea.

The first attack in a SIM card exchange attack is a hacker to phish as much information about the victim as possible. Using fraudulent emails, phone calls, or social media accounts, hackers trick victims by revealing personal information such as legal names, birth dates, phone numbers, and addresses that could be tied to account security.

After the attacker has gathered enough information to fake the victim’s identity, they will call the cell phone provider to declare that the original SIM card has been compromised and that they would like to activate the new one at their disposal in the same account. Using previously collected personal data, attackers can usually answer security questions without warning and completing the transaction.

Once this is completed, the attacker will gain access to all the victim's text messages, phone calls, and accounts that may be associated with a phone number. Because a large number of bank accounts, mailboxes, and social media accounts can be restored or overwritten using mobile authentication, SIM card attacks leave a huge amount of information vulnerable. If not caught at an early stage, an attacker could potentially open new bank accounts to transfer funds on behalf of the victim or block the victim from all accounts.

How to determine the attack on the SIM card

A sign of an attack on a SIM card is to stop sending or receiving text messages and calls to the device. After the attacker successfully redirected the phone number, the victim’s device will practically invalidate its communication capabilities.

Cell phone users can also contact the provider to find out if SIM activation has been requested. Some mobile operators will also send a confirmation email about the exchange of the SIM card, confirming that this was done by the account holder.

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