SIM swap attacks were reported by several members of the crypto community in the US last week. This represents a wave of coordinated attacks on users.
What is SIM Swapping?
SIM swapping or SIM jacking is a common account take over (ATO) technique used by hackers who transfer the victim’s phone number to their own SIM card. Doing this helps hackers in resetting account passwords and completing 2-factor authentication for protected accounts. While such attacks have been commonplace for about 5 years, they have exploded in number since the cryptocurrency boom of 2017.
The number of such attacks was higher last year as recent efforts by law enforcement is helping identity hackers and bust their scheme. Interestingly, a new wave of SIM jacking started in the second half of May, with the number of such reports skyrocketing in the last week. ZDNet writer Catalin Zimpanu shared tweets from Twitter users who were victims of the SIM swap hack. One user Sean Coonce has admitted publicly to have lost over $100,000 worth of digital currency due to the SIM swap event.
How are some users managing to be safe?
In its report, ZDNet said that some victims of the attack have reported a loss of funds, but others have successfully avoided this issue by shifting to hardware security tokens. Typically, users received SMS-based 2FA to log into their accounts. Now hardware-based authentication apps are allowing users to remove the need for SIM-based verification altogether.
A victim stated that hackers quickly realized that they might not be able to get access to crypto exchange accounts. Therefore, they started targeting email and social media accounts. The victim’s Instagram account was hacked by malicious actors. Similar events were reported by other victims whose social accounts were hacked when attackers couldn’t get into their crypto exchange accounts.
The recent wave of attacks happened to have taken place in the last week and targeted customers based in the US only. Many users who reported the issue on Twitter were T-Mobile customers, but the attacks weren’t limited to the telecom providers. Some victims were AT&T customers as well. The company was involved in a several-million-dollar lawsuit by a victim of a similar hack.
SIM swap attackers don’t usually have a long way to go since there are too many logged events at the telecom operators. In most cases of such attacks, current or former employees of a mobile store are involved in the case.