QR Code Manipulation – The Rising Threat Of Phishing Attacks

Arthur 13 May, 2024 247 Views
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“The ideal, innovative, and socially supporting invention may get its birth for human evolution. Hence, after being popularized, the same invention profits not just its creator but also miracles the opportunistic minds who recognize its worth in the market. However, when the intended hyped innovation is exploited badly, then it shocks every stakeholder associated with it. Let’s take an example of a contemporary invention, QR Code, which has become the new target of cybercriminals for malware payloads.”  

In the never-ending unethical and predatory world of violating cyber-attacks, the trap of QR Code manipulation is the fastest-growing cybercrime tactic. Our world, unaware of most of the catastrophic attacks, is not prepared to face its biggest cyber nightmare, which is going to give it the feeling of not trusting any new easy-to-use technology.   

Let’s explore more about the QR Code scam that has become a favorite deceptive attack of cyber criminals.  

What Is QR Code Manipulation? 

QR code scam also known as QR code manipulation is the new trick for hackers to steal data, run malware, and ask for ransom. The cyber attackers simply engineer malicious QR codes and send them to their target individuals with the same phishing and phishing techniques.   

Phishing traps invite, force, and stimulate the target individuals for malware entries and data theft. These practices require time to successfully catch the victims and ask for ransom. Thus, the QR code doesn’t allow users to have second thoughts about its negative consequences. The scanning takes a few seconds to lead to the main goal of the creator of the quick response code, and within a few seconds the data of the user is stolen, and the endpoint system is hijacked.   

Is QR Code Scam More Exploitive Than Other Phishing Attacks? 

Other phishing attacks such as whaling, smashing, and visiting employ digital approaches to cause harm to their targets. But a QR Code scam can contact individuals via digital and physical elements. With instant interaction and actionable practice through smartphone devices, users are easily trapped on the cyber web of hackers.  

Furthermore, the increasing widespread utilization of QR codes and lack of awareness of this phishing trap have shaped it as the ultimate threat. Woefully, the implications of this manipulation are so powerful and damaging that in a few minutes, it leads to multi-staged attacks. Likewise, system hijacks, downloading of faulty applications, and stealing of login passwords. Due to the ruinous consciousnesses of QR code manipulation, many are calling it a disastrous phishing attack.  

Exploitive QR Code Manipulation Techniques Cybercriminals Use.  

Almost every social person contains physical forms of QR codes, as they can be attached to posters, cards, brochures, flyers, or any retail product. Moreover, the call-to-action approach of the QR code is itself encouraging that power to follow the way towards harmful traps.   

The trick of QR Code manipulation is not a brand-new trick. In fact, it has been violated through different data, endpoint devices, and cloud network exploiting ways.  

URL Exploit 

Smart cyber criminals use URL QR Code manipulation to bring the users on their fake malware and dangerous viruses containing websites. At first, the webpages are shown as the trusted ones, but after spending time on the website, the true intentions of the hackers are spotted. For instance, a request for sharing personal information and credit card credentials. Similarly, data theft actions are also conducted by presenting discounts and sales offers.  

Social Engineering 

Social survey invites on digital connection platforms are common. In these surveys, we fill out the forms by including personal info and answer other topic-related questions. Now that QR scanning is at its peak, many use them for their surveys. Although users participating in these polls and assessments should be careful because with social engineering, hackers can obtain their needed info through these questionnaires.    

XSS Attacks 

Cross-site scripting attacks are harmful to endpoint devices and business websites. By just asking for simple login entries after scanning through the QR code shared before, users’ devices and websites are benefited for criminal acts. For most of us, the exercise of scanning and logging in by sharing credentials looks like an everyday thing and that is where the cyber attackers take advantage of complacent thinking.  

 Image-Based Scams 

Nowadays, it is easy to just display a poster image of a QR code without any context. This simple-looking and forcing-to-scan display looks normal but is a phishing trap of attackers. All cybercriminals need vulnerable weak points, and your scanning practice of a few minutes can guide them to your endpoint device’s vulnerable spot.  

Waterhole Attacks 

The attackers simply use the bandwagon approach to implement their more people-grabbing waterhole attacks. To succeed in data theft, they put the QR code mark on a poster or image and then display it in crowded places. Such as shopping malls, stadiums, movie theaters, and train stations. Bandwagon means; follow the crowd, and here people follow each other to get into the data-stealing traps.  


Ever witnessed and scanned QR codes in a printed or digital magazine? If the answer is yes, then it will be easy for you to understand this trick. Secondly, motion posters appearing on digital platforms also include QR codes, so almost every social communication channel user knows about marketing through QR codes. Ever-smarts are also taking advantage of paid ads from physical to digital advertising to fulfill their violating requirements, ultimately enabling malware files into the system of users’ endpoint devices.  

Application Vulnerabilities Exploiting 

The game of quick response manipulation is far bigger than just QR code scamming. Cybercriminals are not just creating code that does vulnerability breaches, but also compose the QR code scanners for their violating actions. In this technique, they find the vulnerabilities of a third-party QR code scanner, then generate the QR code to directly enter into the personal space of the user utilizing the compromised scanner.  

Pharming Scams 

Phishing attacks involving emails revealing notices or notifications from the users’ financial banks are universal. A pharming scam that involves QR code manipulation is the new fraud in the market. Clever players also take advantage of payment transaction hubs to steal and misuse the data of others. Likewise, they exchange the QR codes on payment pages or printed papers and carry the users to financial banking sites asking for credit card passwords and other classified info.  

Location-Based Scanning Traps 

The traps of stealing every data and destroying the environment of devices are not limited to posters and crowded locations. Cybercriminals, never getting over generating new phishing ideas, hang posters on busy locations to hijack cloud storage, business accounts, and other connected devices through email IDs. Putting QR codes on sign boards is common in these location-based attacks.  

Supply Chain QR Manipulation  

Do you know that your own bought product can become the reason for disturbing your privacy? As retail products or packaging on daily used groceries also include QR codes. Now that we can’t stop retail or garment companies from attaching QR codes, everyone has to quit scanning the quick response codes on these products.  

Practical Ways To Alter QR Code Scams 

It feels unfortunate to imagine that every digital invention is being used for malicious activities. But if there are negative ways of harming others’ private spaces, then there must be alternatives to save individuals from cyber-attacks and phishing traps. Here are the top ten practical ways to defend your devices from these manipulative scams.  

Training & Awareness 

Business professionals and workplace employees should be trained about this recently emerged threat that retains the ability to increase ransomware attacks. Every manipulation approach should be shared with them along with possible consequences, as awareness before following the needed prevention process is important.  

For the absolute alterations, consultancy from an expert cybersecurity and proven IT specialist can be an excellent choice.  

Secured QR Code Scanner Apps  

Downloading applications from unreliable resources results in having faulty and malware-imposed scanners. Now that we know how third-party QR scanners can also be corrupt and vulnerable, we must download renowned and trusted scanners containing updated features.  

Trusted scanners include end-to-end encryption security guards, protecting users’ privacy. Otherwise, downloading every third-party application ignites the risk of data breaches and system hacks.  

QR Code Scrutinization 

Just like it just takes a few minutes to do the scanning thing and reach out to the intended websites or application page; similarly, it takes a few minutes to start the process of data theft by cyber attackers. Therefore, professionals and students have to be cautious.   

They can simply examine the QR code and find suspicious signs. Like identifying the web addresses and finding related information about the attached QR code.  

Update In Security Policies 

Companies may not include precautions and guides on using QR codes in their security policies, but this is the time to take the needed actions. Under the implementation of policy updates, enterprises can guide their workforce on how to scan only trusted QR codes.  

Moreover, corporate sessions can be arranged by the organizations to train the staff to scan the codes only from trusted resources. As it is not only about the safety of companies’ data, but also about the protection of private spaces for employees.  

Endpoint Security Software 

The installation of endpoint security software is always in demand, as they are one of the main targets. The urgency of safeguarding devices from QR manipulation again ignites the need for endpoint protection technologies.  

Endpoint protection software like EDR (Endpoint Detect and Response) (Endpoint Detect and Response) or upgraded antivirus has security features to warn and protect devices from malware entering the systems through QR code scanning.  

Quishing & Phishing Awareness 

The speedy growth in phishing and quishing is raising the alarm to be more alert. Basically, people should be advised to avoid every offer from unknown resources through emails, text messages, vocal calls, and QR codes.  

The phishing and quishing traps are full of false offers, fake discount deals, and unauthorized bank notices. So, before visiting the webpages or downloading the software from any digital way, people should examine the resources.  

MFA Security 

The extra protection layer of multiple-factor authentication can alter the occurrence of malware attacks by receiving code into personal accounts. The MFA protection on classified information asks for a security code that is sent to the user to verify.  

With this safeguarding layer, we can detect that someone wants to access our classified spaces. Meaning the attack of a QR code scam won’t work out after the installation of MFA security.  

Periodic Security Audits 

The current malware attacks can occur through QR codes. It reveals that the blast of cyber-attacks can result from manipulated scanning. That’s why regular security audits of endpoint devices and cloud networks will secure the cyberspaces of companies.   

For the security of digital systems, the action of regular security audits is necessary. If there is not any stopping point for malware attacks, then there should not be any break in daily security scanning.  

End To End Encryption 

Every information about organizations is classified; thus, not every enterprise follows strict security regulations. However, for end-to-end encryption, companies have to store their sensitive data away from endpoint devices that can be vulnerable at any time.  

In simple terms, enterprises can allow limited people to access classified information. Plus, they can partner with an active third-party cybersecurity vendor to secure the data with end-to-end encryption.  

Instant Reporting & Action 

Cyber-attacks don’t come with warnings, they just happen. So, during times of system breaches resulting from QR manipulation, the workforce should know how to report the IT team to respond on time.  

If an organization lacks cyberspace protection support, then it must hire a professional cybersecurity team to handle all data protection practices. As their security plan involves endpoint protection, daily monitoring, vulnerability management, compliance management and installation of cyber defense technologies.   

Xcitium Can Suggest You The Best Way-Out Here. 

Talking about reaching out to experienced cybersecurity guides, then who can forget to highlight Xcitium’s expert consultancy? This is not the time to give up on your endpoint devices and vulnerable cloud networks. As Xcitium has patented technologies to help you protect your system from all types of malware and phishing attacks.