What is Qishing?

Qishing, also known as quishing, is a form of phishing that uses QR (Quick Response) codes to deceive the victim. Rather than launching a phishing attack with a link or attachment, some bad actors choose to take advantage of the QR code instead. Though QR codes have been around for 30 years, their adoption as a widespread tool of convenience is much more recent, making it a ripe opportunity for cybercrime.

Like other forms of phishing, qishing relies on social engineering. The widespread usage of QR codes in recent years, ranging from contactless restaurant menus, to quick transactions, has made it so that most people are primed to trust a QR code. The attack works when the target scans the QR code for what they believe is a legitimate purpose, only to be led to a malicious destination.

Some qishing attacks use QR codes embedded in an email that lead to spoofed login pages, enabling the attackers to harvest credentials for nefarious purposes. Other qishing codes download malware that infects the target’s device. The potential for cybercriminal usage of qishing is as broad as the number of legitimate uses for QR codes.

Risks of Attacks

As with all forms of phishing, there are various consequences for organizations and individuals who fall victim to an attack.

  • Financial Losses: Many attacks directly target the victims’ financial assets. They achieve this through credential theft, deceptive false invoices, and other methods that can be carried out with QR codes.
  • Data Loss: Individuals and organizations alike can lose vital data to a qishing attack.
  • Disrupted Operations: The downtime brought about by a security event like a qishing attack can be detrimental to productivity.
  • Regulatory Repercussions: Compliance regulations require organizations to employ certain measures to protect data privacy and integrity, and an attack can lead to regulatory fines and other legal action.

Tactics Against Qishing

In order to avoid falling victim to an attack, it is crucial to maintain awareness of threat trends and cyber-hygiene fundamentals. While the use of QR codes for phishing purposes is a relatively recent development, many of the same tactics that are effective against other attacks can also prevent qishing.

It is important to foster a security-minded culture where all users are informed of the risks of scanning QR codes. As with traditional phishing attacks, scanning a QR code that is sent from an unknown or unverified sender is a major risk. User awareness of developments in attack types and cybersecurity basics can keep an organization’s staff vigilant to the potential of a deceptive attack.

Cybersecurity tools and solutions can also provide layers of defense. Tools for detecting, identifying, and mitigating email-based threats are available to protect against attacks such as qishing. Email has always been a major vector for a cyberattack, especially deceptive phishing techniques, and advanced email security combined with user awareness of email threats can go a long way in preventing these attacks.

For more information on qishing and how to protect against it, check out our blog on the topic: Qishing: The Rise of QR Code Phishing.

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