Caution is key: Be careful when scanning QR codes.

Tech Blog
Cyber Security
March 11, 2024
Take caution when scanning QR codes.

QR codes have become regular in our lives, appearing on flyers, posters, and other online and offline content. Their convenience is evident, as you can easily scan them with your smartphone camera to access links, coupons, videos, or other online content.

However, a concerning downside has arisen with the increasing popularity of QR codes. Cybercriminals are taking advantage of this technology for data theft, creating counterfeit QR codes that threaten your personal information, potentially leading to identity theft. These scammers can also use QR codes to infect your devices with malware or deceive you into making unauthorised payments.

It is crucial to approach QR code scanning with caution. Despite their innocent appearance, QR codes may hide potential dangers; it is now more important than ever to stay vigilant and protect yourself from emerging scams.

The QR code

Initially designed for tracking parts in the automotive industry, they are now utilised in a range of sectors, including specific use for the convenience of sharing data/information. They offer instant access to information; you simply scan a code with your device, and you can open up the contents of the QR code. They have become integral to various industries, including retail and hospitality. Due to this surge in popularity, cybercriminals have started to utilise QR codes as an attack method, and new phishing scams have emerged that exploit the trust we place in QR codes.

Inner workings of the scam

Scammers produce counterfeit QR codes strategically placed over authentic ones, such as on advertising posters. Unsuspecting individuals unknowingly scan these fake codes, assuming they are legitimate.
Upon scanning the fake QR code, users are directed to a phishing website designed to steal sensitive information or carry out actions such as:

-         Credit card details.
-         Login credentials.
-         The scam could lead users to download malware.
-         Spy on online activities.
-         Access copy/paste history.
-         Dig through contacts.
-         Lock a device until a portion of money is paid.

Another method scammers use is guiding users to a payment page through a QR code. Typically, this page will claim that the user needs to pay a fee for something that is typically free. To protect your employees from falling victim to these scams, it is crucial to ensure knowledge and vigilance are maintained, especially when looking at QR codes and links to external pages.

Top Tips for safe QR code scanning

Verify the source.
Be cautious when scanning QR codes from unknown or untrusted sources. Verify the legitimacy of the code and its source.

Use a QR code scanner app.
Consider deploying a dedicated QR scanner app. Rather than using the camera app on your device, you can use an app feature that will carry out reputation checks.

Inspect URLs before clicking.
Before visiting a website prompted by a QR code, review the URL. Ensure it matches the legitimate website of the organisation it claims to represent before you take any action to access it.

Update your device and applications regularly.
Ensure you keep your devices and QR scanner apps up to date. Regular updates often include new security patches that will help protect your device against cyber criminals.

QR codes can be helpful and convenient, but they can also be dangerous if not used cautiously. Always check their legitimacy before you scan them, protect yourself from scammers who work to steal your data and take advantage of unaware device users.

QR code scams, which are phishing scams, are the most modern and risky forms of cyber criminal activity. Phishing scams can bring down a business’s security system, so it is of the utmost importance that your employees know all the malicious activity that may be sent to their accounts and devices.

A general rule to follow is don’t enter personal information on websites you accessed through a QR code or unauthorised link or don’t pay any money or donations through a QR code unless you have authorised the source to be legitimate.

For more information and support on cyber security, contact our team now and see how our experts can help your organisation stay ahead of cybercriminals.

01482 420150

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