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What is QR Phishing and How Does It Work?

In the last few years, Quick Response (QR) codes have become ubiquitous. From restaurant menus to advertisements, these pixelated squares are everywhere, offering a convenient way to access websites, make payments, or even connect to Wi-Fi networks. However, with great convenience comes great risk. Recently, a new threat has emerged: QR phishing. 

QR phishing, also known as Quishing, is a type of cyber attack that leverages QR codes to deceive users and steal their sensitive information. While phishing attacks through email and text messages are well-known, QR phishing presents a new challenge due to its seemingly innocuous nature. Which is why it is imperative to be aware of the issue and to learn how to protect yourself from the tactic. 

How Does QR Phishing Work?

At its core, QR phishing operates on the same principles as traditional phishing attacks – tricking people into divulging their sensitive information. However, instead of masking as email or text messages, attackers create malicious QR codes and distribute them through physical or digital mediums.

These QR codes often promise enticing rewards, discounts, or exclusive content, encouraging users to scan them with their smartphones. Upon scanning, the unsuspecting person is directed to a fake website or app designed to mimic a legitimate service or login page. Here, they are prompted to enter their credentials, credit card information, or other sensitive data, which is then captured by the attackers.

Common Tactics Used by Attackers

QR phishing attacks can take various forms, each exploiting different vulnerabilities and psychological triggers to maximise their effectiveness. Some common tactics used by attackers include:

  1. Fake promotions: Attackers create QR codes promising exclusive discounts, coupons, or giveaways, enticing users to scan them for a chance to claim the offer. 
  2. Wi-Fi network spoofing: In public places like cafes or airports, attackers may distribute QR codes that supposedly connect users to a free Wi-Fi network. However, scanning these codes could instead grant the attacker access to the person’s device and network traffic.
  3. Malicious downloads: QR codes embedded in advertisements or posters may lead users to download malicious apps or software disguised as legitimate utilities or games.
  4. Impersonation of trusted brands: Attackers may create QR codes bearing the logos of well-known brands or organisations, tricking users into believing they are interacting with a trusted entity.

Protecting Yourself from QR Phishing

While QR phishing presents a unique set of challenges, there are several steps you can take to protect yourself:

  1. Be cautious: Exercise caution when scanning QR codes, especially those received from unfamiliar sources or in unsecured environments.
  2. Verify URLs: Before entering any sensitive information, double-check the URL of the website or app you are directed to after scanning a QR code. Look for signs of authenticity, such as HTTPS encryption and a valid SSL certificate.
  3. Use security software: Install reputable antivirus and anti-malware software on your devices to detect and block malicious QR codes and phishing attempts.
  4. Stay informed: Stay updated on the latest cybersecurity threats and best practices for staying safe online. Educate yourself and others about the risks of QR phishing and how to recognise suspicious QR codes.

By understanding how QR phishing works and implementing proactive security measures, you can minimise the risk of falling victim to these attacks. Remember to stay vigilant and always prioritise the security of your personal information in the digital age.

Got questions? Get in touch with our expert team to learn more. 

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