Dundee Science Centre

Gone Smishing!

The devastation caused by mobile phone scams is highlighted at a new exhibit in Dundee.

Dundee Science Centre has installed ‘Gone Smishing’, designed by the city’s Konglomerate Games in conjunction with Abertay University’s School of Design and Informatics.

Phishing emails or SMS texts (‘smishing’) attempt to persuade recipients to reveal private or confidential information such as passwords or bank details, placing users at risk of identity theft and financial loss. Three out of five Britons have received a smishing message in the last year and over £1.2 billion was stolen by criminals through authorised and unauthorised fraud in 2022, equivalent to over £2,300 every minute.

Last year, Dr Lynsay Shepherd, Senior Lecturer in Cybersecurity and Human-Computer Interaction at Abertay University, secured a grant from the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) to address the growing problem.

Collaborating with award-winning Dundee-based video games company Konglomerate Games, launched by Abertay graduates in 2019,  the team has produced two games to promote phishing education. The first, ‘Gone Smishing’ has now been installed within Café Create at Dundee Science Centre.

gone smishing

Enoch Akintade (12) and Cole Stewart (11) trying out the game. Image supplied by Dundee Science Centre.

Dr Shepherd explained, “When the UK went into lockdown, we all received a text from the Government instructing us to stay at home.  Scammers instantly jumped on it and people started receiving texts asking them to pay a £20 fine for breaking the rules. That was just the start of it. Indeed, there’s been a 600% rise in phishing since the pandemic, so we’re keen to spread the word about the risks and, in the long term, prevent so many people from falling victim to these scams.

“There are various bits of education out there but they’re often a bit dry and neither interactive or engaging so we thought computer games would get around that and help raise awareness. The data we collect, essentially what pitfalls people are most susceptible to, will be fed back into our research, ultimately making it even harder for criminals to prey on society in the future.  As an Academic Centre of Excellence in Cyber Security Education, we’re passionate about sharing our research with the wider public so it’s fantastic to see the game being so well received by visitors to Dundee Science Centre.”

Gone Smishing coverage

Gone Smishing makes the headlines! – credit D C Thomson.

Jamie Bankhead, CEO of Konglomerate Games, added, “As a company, we focus on improving lives through games, having already developed a physio game for young people with brain conditions and developing a game that helps detect and diagnose eye conditions.

“We were delighted to work with Abertay University on these new phishing games which will help users identify some of the increasingly sophisticated scamming methods doing the rounds. Scammers are getting smarter by the day and often prey on those more likely to succumb, including young people targeted by online offers, fake celebrity social media accounts and competitions. But we are all vulnerable to scams, even those who think they’re not! By seeing them and perhaps falling victim to them within the game, they can be more vigilant going forward.”

Lorraine Lemon, Head of Business Development, Dundee Science Centre, added, “We are always keen to showcase the tangible outcomes of university research, particularly on issues as prevalent as this, and which can have such devastating effects.

“Children so often learn by doing so this is not just an entertaining game but also a realistic way for our visitors to explore scams in a safe, informal space. It’s also a great way for parents to start conversations with their children about online safety more generally. Like so many things, cyber security is about prevention and awareness, so I’d urge as many of our visitors to give it a go and contribute to longer-term research to further improve cyber-security.”

For more information on Dundee Science Centre, visit www.dundeesciencecentre.org.uk