Cybersecurity threats are continually evolving, and cybercriminals are becoming increasingly innovative in their tactics. One such emerging threat is “Quishing” – a term coined for phishing attacks that utilize QR codes. QR codes, once a niche technology, have gained popularity in marketing, information sharing, and contactless payments, making them an enticing target for cybercriminals seeking to exploit unsuspecting users.
QR codes are versatile and convenient, but their inherent nature poses a security risk. When users scan a QR code, it can trigger various actions on their device, from opening a website to triggering a payment. The problem lies in the user’s lack of visibility into what will transpire when they scan the code. Unlike standard URLs, QR codes often conceal the destination, creating an element of surprise that cybercriminals are keen to exploit.
Recently, ProDMARC Threat Intelligence has identified a significant increase in QR-based phishing attacks, with many of our customers being targeted with such Quishing attacks by impersonating the customer brand itself. Attackers incorporate malicious QR codes into their phishing emails, redirecting users to fraudulent websites that mimic legitimate services, such as Microsoft Corp. offerings, to harvest login credentials. This approach not only leverages the element of surprise but also capitalizes on image-based phishing tactics, which evade conventional text-based phishing filters.
Unique Challenges of QR-Based Phishing
The incorporation of QR codes into phishing campaigns introduces several unique complexities. Most notably, image-based phishing tactics involve embedding phishing messages as text within an image attached to the email (refer the image above). As most email clients automatically display these images, victims may unwittingly view a screenshot of text, rendering conventional security measures ineffective.
Traditional security systems, such as secure email gateways, Anti APT solutions etc. which are designed to detect textual clues indicating phishing, prove ineffective against these image-based attacks. This leaves organizations vulnerable to these novel threats, which often bypass traditional defenses. This gap in security measures underscores the need for heightened awareness and education among users.
Employees should be equipped with the knowledge and tools to identify and mitigate these threats. Key practices include:
Inspecting Sender Email Addresses: Employees should scrutinize sender email addresses to spot anomalies and inconsistencies.
Exercising Caution with QR Codes: Avoid scanning QR codes from unknown or untrusted sources, as they may lead to malicious websites.
Being Cautious with Personal Information: Exercise caution when entering personal or financial information on websites accessed via QR codes.
How Prophish & ProLMS Can Help
At this critical juncture, our products, ProPHISH and ProLMS, can be invaluable assets in your organization’s defense against QR-based phishing attacks:
Simulated Drills with QR Codes: ProPHISH now offers QR-based phishing templates for simulated drills, allowing you to train your employees to recognize and respond to these threats effectively. By replicating real-world scenarios, ProPHISH empowers your staff to become the first line of defense.
Comprehensive Training: Our Learning Management System, ProLMS, provides comprehensive cybersecurity training modules. These modules cover the latest threats, including QR-based phishing, and equip your employees with the knowledge and skills needed to protect your organization.
In conclusion, the rise of QR-based phishing presents a formidable challenge to organizations worldwide. However, with the right tools and employee awareness training, you can fortify your defenses and empower your employees to thwart these attacks effectively.
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