Beware of the QR Code Phish

Nov 10, 2023

QR code phishing is a deceptive cyber threat that exploits the convenience of Quick Response (QR) codes to trick individuals into unknowingly divulging sensitive information or downloading malicious content. QR codes, originally designed for efficient data transfer in industries such as manufacturing and logistics, have gained widespread popularity for their ease of use in various applications, including mobile payments, ticketing, and marketing.

In a typical QR code phishing attack, cybercriminals create counterfeit QR codes that, when scanned, redirect users to malicious websites or prompt them to disclose sensitive information. These fraudulent QR codes can be placed on physical objects, such as posters or product packaging, or embedded in phishing emails and websites. Once a user scans the code, they may be directed to a fake login page, where their credentials are captured, or to a site that installs malware on their device.

To defend against QR code phishing, individuals should adopt several security measures. First and foremost, it is crucial to be cautious when scanning QR codes from unfamiliar or untrusted sources. Users should verify the legitimacy of the QR code by inspecting its design and ensuring it matches the expected branding. Additionally, employing dedicated QR code scanning apps with built-in security features can add an extra layer of protection, as these apps often provide warnings about potentially harmful codes.

QR code scams can also be sent via email, and this has been on the rise in recent months. The email will appear to be from a trusted source such as Okta or Microsoft, and may ask you to scan the QR code to unlock your account or verify your identity. This is no different than any other phishing email. Verify the authenticity of the sender, and think about if this particular organization has a reason to be contacting you. Many security companies are in the process of developing technology to scan QR codes in emails to verify if they can be trusted, but at the time of this post, it has not seen widespread release. Any suspicious QR codes should be reported to the Information Security Team promptly for investigation.

Regular software updates on mobile devices and the use of reputable antivirus and anti-malware applications can further bolster defenses against QR code phishing attacks. By staying vigilant and adopting a multi-layered security approach, individuals and organizations can mitigate the risks posed by this evolving cyber threat and protect themselves from falling victim to QR code phishing schemes and remaining cyber-safe.