Spimming Cyber Security

Spimming Cyber Security

Spimming in cyber security is a new form of spam through instant messaging apps, often with scams. To combat this, businesses need to promote security awareness, set strict rules, and train staff on safe online communication.

Instant messaging platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Telegram keep us connected. They are easy to use and, as the name suggests, provide instant communication.

To highlight how important messaging has become in our daily lives: the world’s most used messaging app is Whatsapp. It has 2,7 billion users and is still growing (source).

As our communication behaviors have shifted towards messaging, or at least expanded to include this new channel, it’s clear that cybercriminals have adapted as well, giving rise to concerns about spim in cyber security.

Use this Free Security Awareness Training Module on Spimming

What is Spimming in Cyber Security?

In the spirit of instant messaging, let’s keep the spimming definition short and simple: Spimming is when you receive an unsolicited message through an instant messaging platform, often containing fraudulent links or scams.

Wait, isn’t that called spam? The main difference between spam and spimming is how they are sent. Spam involves unwanted emails that often include ads, scams, or harmful links. Spimming, however, refers to sending similar unwanted messages through instant messaging platforms.

Users might not use the term “spimming”; instead, they might just call it “spam,” depending on the channel through which they receive it. Based on the world’s most used messengers (source) the most common ones are WhatsApp spam, Facebook Messenger spam, or Telegram spam.

Users also receive spam as a direct message for example on Instagram or Discord, so they might just call it Instagram DM spam or Discord spam. Shouldn’t this be called Social Media Spam? Yes, that’s another way to look at it.

No matter the channel that you have in focus, the basic patterns of fraud and social engineering should be part of your cyber security training either way. Social Media security can be one of your security awareness training topics that builds on these foundations.

Essentially, spimming is a modern twist on spam, tailored to the instant and personal nature of our digital conversations.

People love to chat. This makes it an opportunity for cyber criminals too.
Instant messaging connects us. Cybercriminals adapt to changing communication behaviours and use instant messaging apps. That’s called Spimming. Image: Generated with Midjourney.

The Risks of Spimming for Businesses

The major risks lie in a) the nature of the messaging experience and b) in technical security measures that often don’t cover messaging apps as they are not part of a company’s IT infrastructure.

Instant messaging spam, or SPIM, is more intrusive than typical spam. Its instant and often personal approach makes it hard to ignore and more annoying. Unlike emails that wait in an inbox, SPIM pops up directly on your screen, demanding immediate attention.

Cybercriminals take advantage of the instant nature and the trust people often place in these platforms. This environment is tempting for staff to lower their guards and rush into taking action that might lead to damage.

The second major risk is that instant messages slip through the cracks. As part of your business’ security measures, your IT department most likely scans emails, checks links, and attachments, and filters out spam.

SPIM bypasses these email security measures and also Anti-Virus checks and firewalls. This means, many of the technical security prevention measures are useless. Or in other words: an opportunity for bad actors.

This situation places a lot of responsibility on staff.

How to Protect Your Business Against SPIM

To fight the growing problem of Spam over Instant Messaging (SPIM) or just spim in cyber security, businesses need to think ahead. They should not only dodge threats but also plan to reduce them.

Even though instant messaging apps usually operate outside your business’s IT system, it’s crucial to use security software whenever you can. This includes Mobile Device Management (MDM). If you’re considering instant messaging for work, choosing a dedicated internal communication app could be a suitable option. These apps offer improved security and controls.

To reduce the risk of becoming a victim of SPIM, it’s important to encourage staff to take responsibility. This means providing clear guidelines and policies that outline what is expected of them.

Additionally, training employees and raising awareness is crucial in combating SPIM. Continue to educate staff on recognizing and handling suspicious messages. Training should include guidelines on what to do and what to avoid on messaging apps, particularly regarding sharing private information. Since messaging apps vary in settings, guide staff on configuring their apps to minimize their digital footprint and exposure. This reduces the likelihood of initial contact from suspicious individuals.

Creating a security-focused culture is essential. Develop an environment where everyone feels responsible for protecting digital systems and sensitive data and is prompt in reporting cyber threats.

By implementing these strategies, businesses can effectively defend against SPIM, ensuring their information remains secure and maintaining trust in their digital communications.

By the Way

Messaging inspired us to create eggheads, a chat-based and AI-enhanced platform for employee training and communication. Since messaging is highly popular in our personal lives, it makes sense to offer businesses the opportunity to inform, educate and engage employees in a conversational way. When marketing goes multichannel, so can internal communication and training.

To give you an idea of how eggheads works, below is a free security awareness training module on spimming that you can use with your team.

Spimming is NOT Spinning

Spimming is not to be confused with spinning: spinning happens in the gym on a cycle and makes you sweat. Spimming can also make you and your IT team sweat, but for a different reason. It’s not a form of exercise; it’s a type of cyber attack targeting you and your organization.

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