SEOUL - In South Korea, where the smartphone penetration rate has reached more than 70 per cent compared to 25 per cent in Japan, more advanced fraud tactics have been reported.
For example, a smartphone user may receive a message that reads, "I'm going to get married. Please attend my wedding. The venue is [site address]." Believing the text message is from a real friend, if the user accesses the site, a programme boots in the background to take over the smartphone to access personal information such as the address book and photos, which are forwarded externally. The smartphone user, however, does not notice anything as the screen image is unchanged.
According to the Korea Internet Security Agency, a government organisation in charge of measures against computer viruses and other related issues, "smishing" tactics started in 2012 with this kind of disguised invitation to a wedding. Smishing-a term coined by combining SMS (short message service) text messaging with phishing, where a fake website steals personal information-is a trick to steal personal information through text messages in the guise of being sent from real companies or acquaintances.
Since then, other smishing tactics include enticing smartphone users to download fake apps that are supposed to make it possible to receive coupons to existing cafes and restaurants.
Recently, a popular smishing tactic involves a programme surreptitiously deleting the official app of a bank that a smartphone user has downloaded and installing an app that looks like the official app instead to steal passwords and other information to withdraw money via online banking.
While the KISA found 2,182 smishing cases in 2012, there were 5,435 cases in February 2013 alone. Last year, about 30,000 cases were reported and financial damage reached about 5.7 billion won (about S$70 million).
South Korean police have broken up some organisations that obtained hacked personal information. However, it is difficult for the authorities to identify hackers based in China, for example, and new tactics continue to arise.