Here’s how easily your phone number could be stolen, why a successful SIM swap scam is only the beginning of your problems, and how you can avoid becoming a victim of the attack

Just how easy is it to conduct a SIM swap attack and what can the attacker do once they have taken control of your phone number? In short, it’s worryingly easy and the criminals can do a lot once they have the keys to the kingdom.

We hear of SIM swapping – also known as SIM hijacking and SIM swap scams – all the time, and yet many people think it can’t ever happen to them. Indeed, people often tell me that they will never get hacked in any way and they actually even wonder why anyone would even target them. But the truth is that we are part of a huge numbers game for many malicious actors and they will continue to target the low-hanging fruit. So why don’t we just implement a few precautionary methods to reduce this risk?

I will come back to what you can do to mitigate the risks later, but first I want to tell you how I tested a SIM swap attack just so I could generate a talk and help people understand the risks. A real-life story is always better when helping people to be more cyber-aware. In fact, I ran a similar experiment last year when I showed how easy it is to hack anyone’s WhatsApp account by knowing their phone number. It was a very valuable lesson for the colleague-turned-victim.

I have known my friend – a let’s call him Paul – since school and we’ve been close friends ever since. I asked him recently if I could attempt to ethically hack him for the greater good and use anything that came from it in the name of cyber-awareness and helping protect people from future attacks. He was happy to oblige and even thought it would be fun to be part of an experiment.

How SIM swapping works