QR code phishing scams are on the rise

QR codes are convenient for users, which is why cybercriminals exploit them in clever ways for malicious activity. Here's everything you need to know.

27-02-2024 - 6 minute read. Posted in: phishing.

QR code phishing scams are on the rise

In a world where digital interactions predominate, QR codes have become ingrained in our everyday routines, improving convenience and expediting procedures. But with technology also comes vulnerability, and phishing schemes using QR codes have become a sneaky threat, taking advantage of people's trust in these matrix barcodes to deceive unsuspecting individuals. We will examine the mechanics of QR code phishing schemes in this blog post, providing information on their tactics, possible dangers, and essential advice to strengthen your defenses against these constantly evolving online threats.

What are QR codes?

QR code is the acronym for Quick Response code. They function as barcodes that your smartphone's camera can scan. For example, QR codes can be used as an easy way to access websites, restaurant menus, tickets, or event details. They can be used for a number of things, but they frequently link to websites.

Understanding QR code phishing scams

Phishing schemes involving deceptive QR codes are used to trick people into disclosing private information or carrying out harmful activities. These seemingly harmless codes lead visitors to malicious websites where malware can be installed on their devices or personal data can be stolen. Attackers take advantage of victims' naivete by using the trust that comes with QR codes, which makes this kind of phishing attack more sneaky.

Deceitful methods

There are several ways that QR phishing scams might deceive unsuspecting individuals into falling for the bait. It may show up as:

  • Fake URLs and websites: Cybercriminals create convincing clones of authentic websites, imitating e-commerce sites, banking portals, and well-known online services. These fraudulent websites using QR codes trick people into thinking they are visiting a reliable source when, in fact, they are giving private information to malicious actors.

  • Credential harvesting: Phishing schemes using QR codes frequently target private data, including passwords, usernames, and bank account information. When users are misdirected to a fraudulent website, they could unknowingly enter their login credentials, giving hackers access to their financial information and digital identities.

  • Distribution of malware: Malicious software can be designed to download onto a user's device through QR codes. Malware can take many forms, such as spyware that watches on user activity or ransomware that encrypts files and demands payment to unlock them.

  • Social engineering tactics: A common tactic used in phishing attacks is psychological manipulation. Social engineering strategies, such as urgent messages or tempting offers, can be used by QR code phishing scammers to trick individuals into scanning the code without checking its authenticity.

Potential risks

If you fall into a QR phishing scam trap, you risk several destructive consequences which are all the more reason to be careful with QR codes. Keep in mind that the repercussions may have an impact on both your personal and professional life. This is especially important if you download work-related apps to your private smartphone or if you reuse passwords across your personal and professional accounts.

Identity theft

Identity theft is a serious concern associated with QR code phishing scams. Cybercriminals can impersonate an individual using stolen credentials, giving them unauthorized access to the victim's accounts and the potential to cause serious harm.

Financial loss

Users' bank accounts and credit cards are directly threatened by scams that target financial information. Significant financial losses may arise from unauthorized purchases, unauthorized access to online banking, or improper use of credit card information.

Data breaches

Successful phishing attempts using QR codes have the potential to cause extensive data breaches and compromise private information on a big scale. If employee credentials are compromised, this not only impacts the specific individual but also has wider ramifications for the organization.

Reputation damage

Being a victim of a phishing scam can damage the reputation of a person or business. Confidential or personal information leaks can be used by hackers or made public, which can cause embarrassment and erode trust.

Protecting against QR code phishing scams

Although QR code phishing can be difficult to detect, there are a number of ways in which you can protect yourself. By implementing the following combination of safe habits and IT solutions, many of which you are probably already familiar with, you reduce the risk of falling victim to a QR code scam.

Stay informed

The first line of protection against phishing schemes is awareness. Stay ahead of emerging risks by routinely checking for cybersecurity news and updates. Awareness training is a useful tool to stay up to date and prepared.

Apply security software

Use trustworthy anti-virus and anti-malware software to create another line of defense against malicious QR codes. To guarantee that these tools can successfully recognize and neutralize the most recent threats, always keep them updated.

Verify the source

Make sure the source of any QR code is confirmed before scanning it. Verify the authenticity of the code with the company or person allegedly in charge of creating it.

Verify the URL

If the QR code intends to redirect you to a website, make sure you look closely at the URL before clicking on the link. Look for typos, odd domain names, or inconsistent content that could point to a phony website. Secure connections (https://) are often used by trustworthy websites to safeguard user data.

Use QR code scanning apps with caution

Take caution when utilizing apps that read QR codes. Choose reliable apps from reliable sources, and avoid giving apps more access than necessary as this can jeopardize the security of your smartphone.

Turn on two-factor authentication (2FA).

By adding two-factor authentication (2FA) to your accounts, you can prevent unwanted access even in the event that your login credentials are stolen.

Report suspicious activity

Report any strange QR codes you come across or if you suspect you may have been the victim of a phishing scam to the appropriate authorities, such as your bank or your workplace's IT department.

Final thoughts

Phishing schemes using QR codes are becoming more common in the digital world, taking advantage of people's willingness to use them for malicious purposes. We can reduce the risks connected to QR code phishing scams and safeguard our digital wellbeing by being watchful, using safe habits, and educating ourselves and others. Recall that a brief exercise of caution can prevent an array of cyber issues.

Author Emilie Hartmann

Emilie Hartmann

Emilie Hartmann is a student and copywriter at Moxso, where she is a language nerd and always on the lookout for new and exciting topics to write about. She is currently doing her Master's in English, where she is primarily working in the fields of Creative Writing and Digital Humanities.

View all posts by Emilie Hartmann

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