Difference Between Phishing, Smishing, Vishing, Quishing: Understanding Cybersecurity Threats – and How to Address Them

Phishing, smishing, vishing and quishing may sound like gibberish, but they actually represent serious threats to your business.

Your staff is the first line of defense–and the first line of weakness. 80-95% of cyberattacks on businesses stem from social engineering. With cybercrime set to cost the global economy over $23 trillion by 2027 and average cost of a single breach at around $9.44 million, it’s never been more important to get up to date on the different cybersecurity threats.


“Protecting your business from cyber threats requires understanding the tactics used by attackers. By testing and training your employees about phishing, smishing, vishing, and quishing, you’re empowering your business and helping safeguard your data.”

Scott Logan, Director of Security Services, NetGain Technologies


Cybersecurity threats come in various forms, each designed to exploit and compromise your information. Among the most prevalent threats are phishing, smishing, vishing, and quishing. Understanding the differences between these tactics is crucial for organizations to protect themselves.

Smishing vs. phishing vs. vishing vs. phishing – what are the differences? Let’s learn below.


Phishing is one of the most common cyberattacks, involving fraudulent attempts to obtain sensitive information, such as login credentials, passwords, and financial data.

These attacks typically occur through email, where attackers impersonate real businesses, such as banks, government agencies, or reputable organizations, to deceive users into providing their information. Phishing emails often contain links to fake websites or malicious attachments designed to steal data or install malware on the victim’s device.

Here’s an example: a company’s CFO receives an urgent, seemingly time-sensitive email seemingly from the CEO, who is currently traveling. The email, sent from a slightly misspelled domain similar to the company’s own (e.g., companny.com instead of company.com), requests a swift transfer of funds for a confidential deal, complete with wire instructions.

The message stresses the need for quick action to secure a critical business opportunity. This is a classic case of CEO fraud, a sophisticated phishing attempt aiming to exploit the trust between high-level executives to initiate unauthorized money transfers.

With generative AI, audio and video deepfakes have added a further layer of sophistication to phishing attacks. LastPass recently reported their employees were targeted by deepfake calls mimicking the CEO.



Smishing is a form of phishing that targets individuals through SMS or text messages instead of email.

Like phishing emails, smishing messages often impersonate legitimate organizations and contain deceptive links or prompts that lead recipients to fake websites or malicious content. Smishing attacks are particularly effective due to the widespread use of mobile devices and the tendency for users to trust text messages from familiar-looking numbers.

A popular form of attack is the ‘ecommerce delivery’ text message, appearing to originate from a reputable source, such as Amazon. In it, the cyberattacker poses as a delivery driver waiting on you to click on a link and make payment for a ‘pending delivery’. The unwitting user clicks on the link and gets redirected to a fraudulent website. There, they’re either tricked into paying for non-existent goods, or malware is downloaded to their device.



Vishing, or voice phishing, involves attackers using phone calls to deceive individuals into sharing sensitive information or performing certain actions.

Vishing scams often use automated voice messages or live callers posing as representatives from banks, government agencies, or tech support services. These attackers employ social engineering tactics to create a sense of urgency or fear, compelling victims to provide personal information or authorize fraudulent transactions over the phone.

Vishing follows the same mechanics as phishing, though the primary mode of attack is over the phone. The Brick, a large Canadian furniture chain, suffered a $224,425 loss when an employee was tricked into transferring funds to a ‘new vendor account’ over the phone. What’s more, the loss wasn’t covered under their cybersecurity insurance, as the employee had voluntarily made the transfer. That’s one more reason to provide routine security awareness training.

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QR code use skyrocketed during and after the coronavirus pandemic. It’s estimated that over 100 million Americans will use their smartphones to scan QR codes by 2025.

In quishing, the cyberattacker uses the QR code to lead users to a malicious website, one that imitates that of a reputable business. The attacker then asks the user to download software to their device, or enter personally identifiable information (PII) online.

Once the device is compromised or sensitive information captured, attackers can use them for financial fraud, ransomware, and even espionage.

It’s easier to fall into a quishing trap than you might think. Imagine visiting a restaurant that you frequent. You scan the QR code on your phone to look at the menu. Unbeknownst to you, someone surreptitiously pasted a new QR code over the one the restaurant had installed. This new one prompts you to ‘download the menu’ as a PDF file. Little did you know, that along with PDF, malware gets downloaded to your phone.


What’s the Difference between Smishing and Vishing?

Smishing (SMS Phishing) targets victims through text messages or SMS. Smishers send fraudulent messages that appear to be from trusted sources, urging the recipient to click on malicious links or provide personal information. These messages often create a sense of urgency, prompting immediate action.

Vishing (Voice Phishing), on the other hand, involves using phone calls to scam the victim. Callers who impersonate legitimate organizations, such as banks or government agencies, carry out vishing attacks to extract personal details or financial information over the phone.

The key difference between smishing and vishing lies in their delivery method – via text messages and via voice calls. Both strategies exploit human psychology to deceive victims, but by understanding and recognizing these methods, individuals and businesses can better protect themselves from falling prey to such cybercrimes.


Attack Type



Phishing Deceptive emails or messages impersonating legitimate entities to trick recipients into providing sensitive information or clicking malicious links. – Train employees on how to recognize phishing attempts

– Use email filters to block suspicious emails

– Implement multi-factor authentication (MFA)

Vishing Voice-based phishing attacks where attackers use phone calls to deceive victims into revealing personal information or financial details. – Instruct employees not to disclose sensitive information over the phone
– Verify the identity of callers before sharing any data
– Utilize call-blocking services to filter out potential scam calls
Quishing Victims are typically tricked into scanning a QR code that leads them to a malicious website or automatically initiates a download of malware. – Educate employees about the dangers of sharing sensitive information over the phone
– Encourage skepticism towards unexpected calls requesting personal details
– Implement call authentication protocols to verify callers
Smishing SMS-based phishing attacks where malicious actors send deceptive text messages to trick people into clicking bad links or sharing sensitive information. – Advise employees to be cautious of unsolicited text messages from unknown senders
– Avoid clicking on links or downloading attachments from unfamiliar sources
– Use security software to scan and filter SMS messages for threats


Protecting Your Business Against Cyber Threats

As cyber threats continue to evolve, organizations must implement robust cybersecurity measures to mitigate risks and safeguard their sensitive data. Partnering with a Managed Service Provider (MSP) like NetGain Technologies can provide comprehensive solutions to counteract phishing, smishing, vishing, quishing, and other cybersecurity vulnerabilities.

NetGain Technologies offers a range of cybersecurity services tailored to meet the unique needs of businesses across various industries. Our team of experts employs advanced threat detection and prevention technologies, including email filtering, endpoint protection, and network monitoring, to proactively identify and mitigate potential security risks.


Learn more about cybersecurity:


Difference Between Phishing, Smishing, Vishing, Quishing


Protect Your Business From Malware and All Other Cyber Threats With NetGain Technologies as Your IT Partner

Through ongoing security awareness training and education initiatives, NetGain Technologies helps organizations empower their employees to recognize and respond effectively to phishing, smishing, vishing, and quishing attempts.

Social engineering is an always-evolving space, and attackers are quick to deploy new technologies to improve the effectiveness of attacks. The best way to protect your organization from social engineering attacks is through routine security awareness training.

We can help you put an effective training program in place, including identifying security coaching (such as through KnowBe4), providing up-to-the-minute insights, and deploying effective access controls.


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Reach out to NetGain for a free IT consultation. Together, we can assess your IT vulnerabilities and close them so your business is and remains safe.

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