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UT Dallas Cybersecurity Expert Gives Tips for Fending Off Text Spam

“Here’s a little gift!” “Congrats to 2 lucky users!”

The texts keep coming, offering free stuff or warnings about fake package deliveries, suspicious account activity or overdue payments.

But as curious as recipients might be, don’t take the bait, said Dr. Murat Kantarcioglu, Ashbel Smith Professor of computer science in the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science at The University of Texas at Dallas.

Unsolicited texts, especially ones asking users to click on a link, are more likely to be smishing, which is part of a phishing attack using SMS (short message services), or text messaging.

“My suggestion is: Never click on the link,” Kantarcioglu said. “You may be tricked into disclosing certain information.”

Smishing has increased as the cost of texting has decreased in recent years and scammers play on people’s fear of missing out. The links can take users to spoofed websites that look real but are designed to steal usernames and passwords or install harmful malware.

Apps that promise to reduce text spamming can block texts based on information gathered from current scams. They’re not 100% effective, however, because new scams constantly emerge, Kantarcioglu said. He added that the apps themselves may have vulnerabilities that could expose private information.

If a text comes with an irresistible offer, Kantarcioglu recommends waiting a few minutes before clicking. He advises calling the company to verify whether the offer is legitimate.

Kantarcioglu said the best hope is that phone service providers invest in the type of artificial intelligence that can filter out spam as they have done with email. But that technology is not yet available.

Prevention may be the best strategy. Kantarcioglu advises giving out your cell phone number sparingly.

“The less information you give out, the less that will be there for spammers,” he said.

Unwanted text messages can be reported to the Federal Trade Commission or by forwarding the message to 7725 (SPAM).

Source | UT Dallas Magazine | Written by Kim Horner


The UT Dallas Computer Science program is one of the largest Computer Science departments in the United States with over 4,000 bachelors-degree students, more than 1,010 master’s students, 140 Ph.D. students,  52 tenure-track faculty members, and 42 full-time senior lecturers, as of Fall 2021. With the University of Texas at Dallas’ unique history of starting as a graduate institution first, the CS Department is built on a legacy of valuing innovative research and providing advanced training for software engineers and computer scientists.

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