What Small Businesses Must Know About QR Code Attacks

QR codes are a convenient way to access websites, download apps, and share information. But before you scan a QR code, are you sure you know where it is going to take you? As quick response (QR) codes have become more part of daily life, cybercriminals have begun leveraging the newly established trust we have as users when we interact with one in the wild.

While this attack style has seen a recent spike in popularity, the FBI issued an announcement in the beginning of 2022:

Excerpt from FBI PSA on QR Code Attacks

Malicious QR codes and QR code phishing are types of cyberattacks that involve the use of QR (Quick Response) codes to deceive users, install malware, and steal sensitive information. In a QR code attack, the attacker creates a malicious QR code that appears to be legitimate but redirects the user to a fraudulent website or application. The QR code can be printed on physical objects like posters, flyers, or product packaging, or it can be displayed on websites, emails, or social media platforms.

A QR Code You Shouldn’t Scan

When a user scans the malicious QR code, they are often directed to a website or app that mimics a legitimate one, such as a banking website, a login page, or a shopping site. The phishing site is designed to trick users into entering their sensitive information, such as login credentials, credit card numbers, or personal details. Once the user submits their information, it is captured by the attacker, who can then use it for fraudulent purposes, such as identity theft, financial fraud, or unauthorized access to accounts.

QR code attacks can be particularly effective because they exploit the trust associated with QR codes. Users often assume that scanning a QR code is safe and trustworthy, especially when encountered in public spaces or from seemingly legitimate sources. However, without proper caution and verification, users can fall victim to these deceptive attacks.

To protect yourself from QR code attacks, it’s important to be cautious when scanning QR codes from unknown or suspicious sources. Consider the following tips:

Verify the source: Be wary of QR codes from unfamiliar sources or those received through unsolicited emails, messages, or social media platforms. Even if it is from a known contact or company, it is better to confirm it is legitimate.

Inspect the URL: Before entering any sensitive information, carefully examine the URL of the website or app you are redirected to after scanning the QR code. Look for any anomalies, misspellings, or inconsistencies that may indicate a phishing attempt.

Enable security features: Enable security features on your smartphone, such as a built-in URL preview or link scanner, to help detect potentially malicious websites or apps.

URL Preview For iOS & Android Devices

Don’t download: If a QR code prompts you for a download, head to the app store instead. By searching manually, you can be sure that you are downloading the legitimate application.

Stay updated: Keep your smartphone’s operating system, apps, and security software up to date, as updates often include security patches and enhancements that can protect against emerging threats.

QR code attacks will likely persist as smartphone security technology is still lacking behind its laptop/desktop counterparts. But by adopting these preventive measures, you can reduce the risk of falling victim to QR code attacks and help protect your organization’s sensitive information.  If you are interested in learning more about ways to protect your business data, such as cybersecurity awareness training and testing, reach out to us today.

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