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Two Arrested in UK for Smishing Campaign Powered by Homemade SMS Blaster 

UK authorities have arrested two individuals for allegedly using a homemade mobile antenna to send mass text messages.

Authorities in the UK have made two arrests as part of an investigation into a large smishing campaign relying on an illegal phone mast.

The suspects, arrested in May in Manchester and London, allegedly used a homemade mobile antenna to send thousands of phishing SMS messages to unsuspecting individuals.

The messages were crafted to mimic those of banks and other official organizations, and the illegal SMS blaster allowed the perpetrators to bypass the protections put in place by mobile phone networks to block suspicious text messages, the authorities announced.

SMS blasters allow organizations to deliver important information to many individuals in a timely manner, including notifications and other types of messages, but require user consent. 

SMS blasting is considered a bad practice when used abusively and becomes illegal if used to deliver unsolicited text messages to individuals who did not consent, especially if used for malicious purposes, such as the distribution of malware or malicious links.

The illegal SMS blaster identified by the UK authorities was used in a smishing scheme designed to perpetrate fraud, and one of the suspects, Huayong Xu, 32, remains in custody, while the other was released on bail.

The investigation was conducted by the UK Dedicated Card and Payment Crime Unit (DCPCU) in collaboration with telecoms operators, UK communications watchdog Ofcom, and the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC).

“The criminals committing these types of crimes are only getting smarter, working in more complex ways to trick unknowing members of the public and steal whatever they can get their hands on. It is vital we work with partners to help prevent the public from falling victim to fraud,” head of DCPCU David Vint said.

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Consumers in the UK are advised to report suspicious text messages by forwarding them for free to 7726, which allows mobile network providers to investigate and block or ban the sender if deemed necessary.

Related: Spain Arrests Hackers in Crackdown on Major Criminal Organization

Related: Twilio Says Employees Targeted in Separate Smishing, Vishing Attacks

Related: Ongoing ‘Roaming Mantis’ Smishing Campaign Hits Over 70,000 Users in France

Written By

Ionut Arghire is an international correspondent for SecurityWeek.

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