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Not Even QR Codes Are Safe from Cybersecurity Threats

Not Even QR Codes Are Safe from Cybersecurity Threats

May 24, 2023

Quick response codes, or QR codes, are all over the place in today’s business world. They have largely been implemented as a means of providing contactless services throughout the pandemic and post-pandemic business environment, but they have also long been used for things like menus, document access and management, and so on. Even cybercriminals are using QR codes to their advantage, making it harder for all of us to trust them.

Let’s go over some of the key takeaways from QR code fraud and what you can do about it.

Explaining QR Codes and QR Code Fraud

QR codes have been around since 1994, and they are barcodes that can be scanned through the use of a smartphone. Essentially, the traditional barcode is limited to 20 alphanumeric characters due to being designed for horizontal scanning. A QR code takes this one step further by utilizing both vertical and horizontal space, allowing it to hold more information and to be scanned from any angle.

This makes things easier for businesses and users, but it also makes things easier for cybercriminals. They can share malicious links and malware through a medium that is a trusted way of disseminating information. People tend not to question QR codes, making them considerably more useful for this purpose than other traditional hacking mediums.

QR Codes Can Be Used in Phishing Schemes

Worse yet, they can be incorporated into various strategies to allow for more effective phishing tactics. Phishing is already problematic enough without the addition of QR codes; they just make it even more difficult to identify attacks. Plenty of people wouldn’t think twice about scanning a QR code on a business card, menu, or poster, and that’s how hackers can get you. These threats make even security-minded individuals vulnerable to attacks.

Furthermore, these attacks often don’t initiate immediately. Malware will often be uploaded to the device that scans the malicious QR code, waiting for the best opportunity to strike. For example, people might use the same device for their banking credentials or account access information, and if there is malware waiting to steal those credentials, well, that’s certainly not a good thing.

Some QR codes will also direct users to a phishing website where credentials could be harvested. Let’s say you use the QR code to view a website that appears genuine, only to find out the website is impersonating the real deal. Some cybercriminals will even place their own QR codes over legitimate ones to accept payments to their own accounts.

Knowledge is Power, in This Case

The more you know about QR codes and phishing, the more likely you are to protect yourself from these types of scams. Whether it’s your personal or professional life, you can use the following tips to avoid phishing scams:

  • Treat suspicious QR codes like you would any other suspicious method; contact the other party through an alternative method to confirm legitimacy.
  • You can also manually search for the resource provided through the QR code.
  • Security tools like antivirus and scam alert applications can go a long way toward mitigating risk.

First Column IT can help your organization stay safe against these types of scams and all other types of threats. To learn more, call us today at (571) 470-5594.

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