Phishing attacks: QR codes increasingly exploited

The attacks phishing are now a consolidated reality in the cybercrimine.

This type of technique, in fact, is ideal as a vector for malware e ransomware, with a series of strategies implemented by cybercriminals to make these campaigns increasingly effective. In this context, the trend of using QR codes seems to be on a strong and worrying increase.

According to research by Hoxhuntil 22% of phishing attacks in October 2023 used this type of channel to spread. All of this is very worrying, also because the trend of phishing campaigns is growing rapidly.

QR codes are images readable using special hardware/software consisting of a matrix that transmits information. These codes were invented by a Japanese automotive company in 1994 as a technique to connect the digital and physical worlds. They were initially used to track vehicle parts during manufacturing processes; however, the use of QR codes has grown significantly thanks to the spread of smartphones.

Nowadays, these can be useful for directing a user to a website. In fact, a simple one is enough phone camera to scan a QR code and get a URLwhich can be visited with a simple touch of a finger.

Among other things, it should be pointed out that there are actually two types of code: those dynamic and those static. In the first case, they are used to provide information that does not change, such as a URL or contact information.

Phishing attacks and QR codes: a worryingly growing trend

I dynamic QR codesinstead, direct the user to a URL that points to a server where the information is stored, allowing for easy updating of content.

The attacks Quishingor implemented through this type of carrier, may involve the distribution of QR codes via email, platforms social media or services of instant messaging or the codes could be printed. Malicious codes are generated to direct to a website used to harvest credentials or make the victim download malware.

These attacks provide a false context for using the code to convince the user to scan: it could be aspecial offerof a’prize draw or a security warning.

On a practical level, therefore, the advice is not to scan codes at random but to always check their real origin.


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