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Conference proceedings | Research library
| 26/07/2023

Content analysis of persuasion principles in mobile instant message phishing

Rufai Ahmed | Sotirios Terzis | Karen Renaud

The popularity of Mobile Instant Messaging (MIM) Applications (apps) presents cybercriminals with a new venue for sending deceptive messages, known as ‘Phishing’. MIM apps often lack technical safeguards to shield users from these messages. The first step towards developing anti-phishing solutions to identify phishing messages in any attack vector is understanding the nature of the attacks. However, such understanding is lacking for MIM-enabled phishing. This study provides insights into how phishers apply persuasion principles in MIM phishing. Using the deductive content analysis method and Cialdini’s six principles of persuasion, this study identified and analysed 67 examples of real-world MIM phishing attacks from various online sources. Each phishing example was coded to identify the persuasion techniques used and how they were applied. Findings reveal that the principles of social proof, liking, and authority were most widely used in MIM phishing, followed by scarcity and reciprocity. Furthermore, most of the phishing examples contained three persuasion principles, most often a combination of authority, liking, and social proof. These findings provide insights into how phishers execute phishing in MIM apps and provide a theoretical foundation for future research on the psychological aspects of phishing in MIM apps and the development of anti-phishing solutions to identity phishing in MIM.

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