SMS Security & Privacy Gaps Make It Clear Users Need a Messaging Upgrade

SMS texting is frozen in time.

People still use and rely on trillions of SMS texts each year to exchange messages with friends, share family photos, and copy two-factor authentication codes to access sensitive data in their bank accounts. It’s hard to believe that at a time where technologies like AI are transforming our world, a forty-year old mobile messaging standard is still so prevalent.

Like any forty-year-old technology, SMS is antiquated compared to its modern counterparts. That’s especially concerning when it comes to security.

The World Has Changed, But SMS Hasn’t Changed With It

According to a recent whitepaper from Dekra, a safety certifications and testing lab, the security shortcomings of SMS can notably lead to:

  • SMS Interception: Attackers can intercept SMS messages by exploiting vulnerabilities in mobile carrier networks. This can allow them to read the contents of SMS messages, including sensitive information such as two-factor authentication codes, passwords, and credit card numbers due to the lack of encryption offered by SMS.
  • SMS Spoofing: Attackers can spoof SMS messages to launch phishing attacks to make it appear as if they are from a legitimate sender. This can be used to trick users into clicking on malicious links or revealing sensitive information. And because carrier networks have independently developed their approaches to deploying SMS texts over the years, the inability for carriers to exchange reputation signals to help identify fraudulent messages has made it tough to detect spoofed senders distributing potentially malicious messages.

These findings add to the well-established facts about SMS’ weaknesses, lack of encryption chief among them.

Dekra also compared SMS against a modern secure messaging protocol and found it lacked any built-in security functionality.

According to Dekra, SMS users can’t answer ‘yes’ to any of the following basic security questions:

  • Confidentiality: Can I trust that no one else can read my SMSs?
  • Integrity: Can I trust that the content of the SMS that I receive is not modified?
  • Authentication: Can I trust the identity of the sender of the SMS that I receive?

But this isn’t just theoretical: cybercriminals have also caught on to the lack of security protections SMS provides and have repeatedly exploited its weakness. Both novice hackers and advanced threat actor groups (such as UNC3944 / Scattered Spider and APT41 investigated by Mandiant, part of Google Cloud) leverage the security deficiencies in SMS to launch different types of attacks against users and corporations alike.

Malicious cyber attacks that exploit the insecurity of SMS have resulted in identity theft, personal or corporate financial losses, unauthorized access to accounts and services, and worse.

Users Care About Messaging Security and Privacy Now More Than Ever

Both iOS and Android users understand the importance of security and privacy when sending and receiving messages, and now, they want more protection than what SMS can provide.

A new YouGov study examined how device users across platforms think and feel about SMS texting as well as their desire for more security to protect their text messages.

It’s Time to Move on From SMS

The security landscape as it relates to SMS is simple:

  • SMS is widely used
  • SMS is easily abused because it has so few protections
  • Smartphone users across mobile platforms care more about security than ever before

The continued evolution of the mobile ecosystem will depend on users' ability to trust and feel safe, regardless of the phone they may be using. The security of the mobile ecosystem is only as strong as its weakest link and, unfortunately, SMS texting is both a large and weak link in the chain largely because texts between iPhones and Androids revert to SMS.

As a mobile ecosystem, we collectively owe it to all users, across platforms, to enable them to be as safe as possible. It’s a shame that a problem like texting security remains as prominent as it is, particularly when new protocols like RCS are well-established and would drastically improve security for everyone.

Today, most global carriers and over 500 Android device manufacturers already support RCS and RCS is enabled by default on Messages by Google. However, whether the solution is RCS or something else, it’s important that our industry moves towards a solution to a problem that should have been fixed before the smartphone era ever began.

Easily add or remove groups of members to a space in Google Chat

What’s changing 

We’re introducing a new app for Google Chat called Bulk Member Manager that enables space managers and space members, who have permission to manage members, to easily add or remove members to or from a space in bulk. 

In addition to the new membership search feature and the ability to add up to 50,000 members to spaces in Google Chat, this update will help you better organize people, topics, and projects to help ensure effective conversations take place in spaces.
Easily add or remove groups of members to a space in Google Chat

Getting started 

  • Admins: Admins can enable or disable users from adding Chat apps to their spaces by going to the Admin console > Apps > Google Chat > Chat apps access settings. Visit the Help Center to learn more about optimizing Chat spaces for your organization
  • End users: 
    • All space managers can add members using the Bulk Member Manager app. A space manager can grant permission for a space member to add other members by going to the space menu > Space settings > Access > selecting the All members option under Who can manage members and groups. If this is granted, a space member can use the Bulk Member Manager app to add members. 
    • To use Bulk Member Manager, open the space that you want to add or remove members to/from > add the app to the space > type one of the following slash commands: 
      • “/addDialog” to add members by copy/pasting email addresses. The app will guide you through the process of adding members. 
      • “/removeDialog” to remove members by copy/pasting email addresses. The app will guide you through the process of removing members. 
      • “/addCsv” (with a .csv attachment) to add members. 
      • “/removeCsv” (with a .csv attachment) to remove members 
    • Visit the Help Center to learn more about using the Bulk Member Manager app.

Rollout pace 

  • This feature is available now for all Google Workspace customers 


  • Available to all Google Workspace customers 


Easily link to a specific message in Google Chat

This announcement is part of Google Cloud Next ‘23. Visit the Workspace Blog to learn more about the new Google Chat. 

What’s changing

Building upon the recent updates in Google Chat, such as message views, in-line replies and larger spaces, we’re introducing message linking, an additional feature that helps teams collaborate more effectively. 

To generate links to messages easier so that others can reference a particular topic or announcement, we’ve added a “Copy link” option for all messages posted in spaces, group messages and direct messages. Once the link is sent and clicked by a colleague, they will be taken to the original message within Chat as long as they have access to the conversation or space.

Easily link to a specific message in Google Chat

Getting started 

  • Admins: There is no admin control for this feature. 
  • End users: 
    • To generate a link to a message, hover over the message and click the three-dot menu > select ‘Copy link” > paste the link within the conversation or space of your choice.
      • Users who don’t have access to a specific space will receive an error message upon clicking the link to a message in a space they do not belong to 
    • Visit the Help Center to learn more about linking to a specific message

Rollout pace 


  • Available to all Google Workspace customers and users with personal Google Accounts 


Chrome Stable for iOS Update

Hi everyone! We've just released Chrome Stable 117 (117.0.5938.117) for iOS; it'll become available on App Store in the next few hours.

This release includes stability and performance improvements. You can see a full list of the changes in the Git log. If you find a new issue, please let us know by filing a bug.

Harry Souders
Google Chrome