The Rising Threat of QR Code Phishing: Protecting Your Credentials

October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month! As designated by the US Government’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), October is a dedicated time for the public and private sectors to work together to raise awareness about the importance of cybersecurity. Ntirety has always been focused on security, and this month we’re sharing a variety of content to highlight ways to combat dangerous cyber threats. One of this year’s official Cybersecurity Awareness Month tips for staying safe is “Recognize and Report Phishing,” and in this blog post we’ll explore the emerging threat of QR code phishing attacks and how you can protect yourself and your organization.

In today’s digital age, cybersecurity has become a paramount concern for individuals and organizations alike. Cyber threats are increasingly prevalent, with one of the most common attack vectors being credential theft. Phishing is a method often employed by threat actors to gain access to credentials. As these attackers become more sophisticated, it’s crucial to stay informed and vigilant.

Credential Theft: A Persistent Threat 

The foundation of many cyberattacks lies in the theft of user credentials. Whether it’s your email, social media accounts, or workplace login, credentials are a valuable commodity for cybercriminals. Once they gain access to your account, attackers can not only steal sensitive information, but wreak havoc and potentially compromise an entire organization.

The Power of Phishing Attacks 

Phishing is a tried-and-true, and fairly simple, method for harvesting credentials. Phishing involves tricking an unsuspecting individual into revealing their login information, through a communication that appears legitimate in nature. While traditional email-based phishing attacks are well-known, a new variant has been on the rise: QR code phishing attacks.

QR Code Phishing: A Growing Threat 

QR codes have become ubiquitous, appearing on restaurant menus, flyers, and even in advertising campaigns. Their ease of use and the quick access to information they provide make them an attractive choice for both legitimate businesses and malicious actors. As the name implies, QR code phishing attacks involve threat actors leveraging the convenience of QR codes to deceive targets. To carry out the attack, a cybercriminal will send an email containing a QR code, typically disguised as an authentication attempt or a seemingly harmless link. When the user scans the QR code, they are redirected to a malicious website designed to download malware or harvest their valid credentials. What makes this threat even more insidious is that it can also target less protected devices, such as mobile phones and tablets. While this often occurs over email, some QR code phishing attacks also involve placing QR Codes in physical locations, such as on posters, flyers, and product packaging. The QR code may be placed in a location where it is likely to be scanned, such as a public place or a busy area.

Protecting Yourself from QR Code Phishing 

It’s crucial to remain vigilant and take proactive steps to protect yourself and your organization from QR code phishing attacks. Some methods of defense include:

  • Cybersecurity Awareness Training: Regularly educate yourself and your employees about cybersecurity best practices. Understanding the evolving threat landscape is the first line of defense.
  • Phishing Attack Simulation: Conduct regular phishing attack simulation tests to assess your team’s preparedness and ability to identify phishing attempts.
  • Not Trusting Unverified QR Codes: Only scan QR codes from trusted sources. If you receive a QR code via email be extremely cautious, and don’t scan it unless you are 100% certain it’s from a legitimate sender.
  • Reporting Suspicious Activity: If you encounter any suspicious emails or QR codes, report them immediately to your organization’s Security Operations Center (SOC) or IT department. Many organizations have a “Report Phishing” button in their email client to facilitate this process.
  • Thinking Before You Click: When scanning a QR code, be cautious if it leads you to a webpage requesting confidential information. If in doubt, do not scan, or stop and seek assistance from your IT team.
  • Staying Informed: Keep up to date with the latest cybersecurity news and advisories, as this can help you recognize emerging threats and how to identify them.

Ntirety can help your organization stay secure with service offerings in each of these areas.

One Compromised Account, Many Consequences 

Remember, a single compromised account can have far-reaching consequences that extend well beyond the breached account or device. A single point of compromise can serve as the gateway to a massive breach, with impacts for not only your personal data, but also the security of the organizations you interact with.

As with all cyber threats, it’s essential you stay vigilant, stay informed, and protect your credentials from the growing threat of QR code phishing. We’ll be sharing more insights on cybersecurity all month long, so be sure to check back on the Ntirety blog, or visit the Ntirety website to learn more about Ntirety’s Managed Email Security Service, and how Ntirety works to secure the Ntirety of your organization.


Sources Consulted and Further Reading