White Hat Institute

QR Codes are being used by cybercriminals in a variety of ways

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With cyberattacks expected to skyrocket throughout 2022, perhaps we should all think more carefully when scanning the next QR code we come across. Companies were told to accept failure and quit their fascination with quick-response (QR) codes despite reducing the need to type a URL on your phone or tablet and exploring new and creative ways of connection. However, as the limited economy took root a couple of years later, the two-dimensional barcode has just seen a reemergence.

QR codes grew as people expected more instantaneous convenience, from validating your vaccination records in a nightclub or major event to ordering meals in a restaurant and even joining a new Wi-Fi hotspot. It took a global pandemic to get the general public to accept QR codes. Well over 1.5 billion individuals have been using them worldwide, according to Juniper Research, and hackers are already taking advantage of this trend.

QR codes and the forms of attacks they contain

Most individuals have seen phishing efforts, in which victims are tricked into responding to malicious links in their emails. Threats with QR codes function in a similar fashion.

One approach is called QRLjacking, in which hackers utilize any tactic in the book to lead people to a fake site by placing codes on billboards, buildings, and even computer monitors. It may be as relatively easy as posting a sticker on a bus station instructing riders to scan to install an important government updated app. Another technique is called Quishing, which sends potential victims to a phony variant of a prominent website and asks them to input their login information.

Even though these cyberattacks are simple to carry out, they frequently go undetected by security mechanisms that analyze email content for malicious text instead of suspicious barcodes. As an outcome, some cybercriminals utilize both email and QR codes to get beyond local security and obtain Microsoft 365 credentials and passwords.

One other type of attack is for hackers to establish a free Wi-Fi hotspot for everyone who scans the QR Code. Honeypot attacks allow hackers to steal sensitive data such as stored banking and credit card information quietly. More basic approaches exist, such as swapping QR codes in public areas with an identical sticker that links users to dangerous web content.

How to stay safe and be prepared for these types of attacks?

The most straightforward approach to remain safe is to avoid scanning QR codes. Sadly, this is becoming extremely problematic. Take a few seconds to double-check the organization’s legitimacy prior to actually scanning a QR code in public. Does the URL you get there matches what you were looking for? For various reasons, any demands to disclose personal and payment details right away should be ignored. If you receive a QR code in an email, treat it with the same skepticism you would any other hyperlink in the email.

Furthermore, instead of clicking on skip or remind me later buttons, home users should guarantee that they download security updates to their gadgets as soon as they become available. Even though most individuals would never accept hyperlinks received from random people or unwelcome emails, many people are victims of putting their cyber defenses down without even recognizing it when scanning a code on a post. The consequences of scanning codes without reasoning serve as a timely warning that everybody, whether online or offline, ought to be cautious.

Keeping company assets safe

Three major difficulties confront large corporations and IT managers. To begin, they must conduct regular integrity checks on their websites and applications, guarantee that their QR codes have not been compromised, and present the right information and links at all times.

Second, every company device should have multi-factor authentication and a strong mobile defense system that prevents phishing attempts, device takeovers, and unwanted downloads automatically.

Lastly, every company should provide information and education about cybersecurity best practices to its personnel.

These three areas of concentration, when integrated, may significantly improve the security stance of the entire organization while also providing additional protection for employees while they are away from the office.