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Beware of Deceptive Tactics: Unmasking the Power of QR Code Phishing

QR Code Phishing

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QR codes are everywhere – you can see them on posters, leaflets, ATM screens, price tags and merchandise, historical buildings and monuments but how about QR Code Phishing? QR codes have become an integral part of our daily lives. From restaurant menus to event tickets and even authenticating two-factor authentication, these small black-and-white squares make accessing information or services more convenient than ever. However, with great convenience comes the potential for misuse. One concerning threat on the rise is QR code phishing and in this blog post, we will delve into what QR code phishing is, how it works, and how to protect yourself from falling victim to this insidious cyber threat.

What Is QR Code Phishing?

QR code phishing, also known as Quishing, is a form of social engineering attack that leverages QR codes to deceive individuals into revealing sensitive information or compromising their security. Phishers create fake QR codes that, at first glance, appear legitimate and trustworthy. These malicious QR codes can lead to various scams, including identity theft, financial fraud, and malware installation. A phishing campaign was observed predominantly targeting a notable energy company in the US, employing QR codes to slip malicious emails into inboxes and bypass security. Roughly one-third (29%) of the 1,000 emails attributed to this campaign targeted a large US energy company, while the remaining attempts were made against firms in manufacturing (15%), insurance (9%), technology (7%), and financial services (6%)

How Does QR Code Phishing Work?

Creation of Malicious QR Codes: Phishers design QR codes that appear to lead to legitimate websites or apps but secretly redirect victims to fake, malicious sites.

Distribution: These malicious QR codes are distributed through various means, including email, SMS, social media, flyers, or even by placing stickers over legitimate QR codes.

Deceptive Content: When scanned, the QR code redirects users to a fraudulent website or app that imitates a trusted entity, such as a bank, e-commerce platform, or social media network. The page usually prompts the user to enter sensitive information, such as login credentials, credit card details, or personal information.

Data Harvesting: Once the victim enters their information, the phisher harvests it for malicious purposes, which may include unauthorised access to accounts, identity theft, or financial fraud.

Malware Installation: In some cases, the fake websites may also try to install malware on the victim’s device, further compromising their security.

Protecting Your Organisation from QR Code Phishing

  1. Educate Your Workforce: Train employees to recognise the risks associated with scanning unknown QR codes and to verify the source of any code they encounter. Patrick Schläpfer, malware analyst at HP, said his team has observed email-based quishing activity on an almost daily basis for months
  2. Use a QR Code Scanner App: Encourage employees to use a reputable QR code scanner app that includes security features like URL preview, which displays the website’s address before opening it. Avoid generic or unknown QR code apps, as they might lack security measures.
  3. Verify Sources: Before scanning a QR code, ensure it comes from a trusted source. Check for branding, consistency in design, and the legitimacy of the website or event it represents.
  4. Keep Software Updated: Ensure that all devices and software used within your organisation are regularly updated to address security vulnerabilities. Updates often include patches for known QR code-related vulnerabilities.
  5. Implement Mobile Device Management (MDM): MDM solutions allow organisations to have better control over the devices used by their employees, enabling the enforcement of security policies and the ability to remotely wipe devices if necessary.
  6. Secure Network Access: Educate employees about the importance of secure Wi-Fi connections. Encourage them to use virtual private networks (VPNs) when connecting to public Wi-Fi networks and to be cautious about unknown Wi-Fi QR codes.
  7. Two-Factor Authentication (2FA): Enable 2FA for all relevant accounts and applications within your organisation. Even if attackers manage to steal login credentials, 2FA provides an extra layer of security.
  8. Regular Security Audits: Conduct regular security audits and penetration testing to identify vulnerabilities in your organisation’s systems, including those related to QR codes.
  9. Report Suspicious Activity: Encourage employees to report any suspicious QR codes or phishing attempts they encounter to your organisation’s IT or security team.

QR code phishing is a growing threat that organisations must address to protect themselves and their employees. By educating your workforce, implementing security measures, and remaining vigilant, you can significantly reduce the risk of falling victim to QR code phishing attacks.

Download your FREE QR Code Phishing Awareness Poster HERE

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