There is no doubt that these fascinating patterned QR codes have recently gained popularity. From payments to file sharing, they are used for various purposes. However, like everything about technology, they also come with their own drawbacks.
One of these drawbacks is that QR codes can lead to cyberattacks. For example, a seemingly innocuous QR code sticker can lead to phishing sites. This is one of the most common strategies by which criminals exploit QR codes.
How cybercriminals use QR codes and why
There are several ways cybercriminals use QR codes to commit crimes. Common to all methods is to “lure people with cheesy deals or lotteries etc.” to scan them. Experts also note how additions such as QR codes unintentionally create more opportunities for malicious activity.
When it comes to luring people to malicious websites, cybercriminals create fake QR codes that appear to lead to a website containing valuable information.
However, when victims scan these QR codes, they are redirected to malware infected website. This malware can then access the victim’s device and steal sensitive information.
The second way cybercriminals use QR codes is to create codes that contain files with hidden malware. When these QR codes are scanned, the malware is downloaded to the victim’s device.
The malware can then carry out various cyberattacks, such as stealing sensitive information, taking control of the device, or spreading threats such as ransomware. Therefore, having a proper antivirus solution is necessary to detect the virus as soon as possible. Even free antivirus tools can provide decent protection.
Recently, QR codes have also been used to carry out phishing attacks. In this type of attack, the QR code leads victims to a fake login page that looks like the real login page of a banking website or online service.
When victims enter their credentials on this fake login page, they give cyber criminals access to their accounts.
Another important issue that has been raised is QRLjacking. This type of attack is carried out through QRs that provide a direct connection to a website or application.
Undoubtedly, QRs make the login process very easy, which leads to some vulnerabilities. Poor implementation, such as not generating QR codes each time a user logs in, is a vulnerability responsible for exposing security holes.
So if these QRs are so dangerous, how could you protect yourself? Well, you can follow these tips below.
Tips for staying safe when using QR codes
Although QR codes are convenient, they can be used to carry out cyberattacks. It is therefore crucial to take some precautions when using them.
- Do not scan QR codes pasted on unknown locations
This is one of the most common ways cybercriminals use to trick victims into scanning malicious QR codes. Therefore, you should only scan QR codes from trusted sources. Even when paying a store owner using a QR code, try to confirm with the owner that the QR belongs to them only.
- Do not click on shortened links
Another way cybercriminals trick people into scanning malicious QR codes is by sharing shortened links. These links usually lead to websites infected with malware. Therefore, you should avoid clicking on it.
- Avoid scanning QR codes sent via email or SMS
Many cybercriminals still believe that SMS and emails are useful for cyberattacks. Thus, they send QR codes via email or SMS with a message that you have won the lottery or try to lure you with other schemes. But, when victims scan these codes, they download the malware to their devices or redirect you to websites that help them steal your data. Therefore, you should avoid scanning QR codes that you receive via email or SMS.
- Install a trusted security solution
This is one of the most crucial things you can do to protect your device from malware. A good security solution like a virtual private network or antivirus software will protect your device from malware and help you securely scan QR codes.
Speaking of options for a VPN download, these tools can offer different levels of protection:
- They encrypt all your internet traffic so that no one can spy on your online activities.
- They also hide your IP address, which makes it difficult for cybercriminals to track you online.
- Some also have a built-in malware protection feature which further enhances your security.
- Other options also have protections against phishing or malicious ads. Therefore, it can block access to a fake site that a QR code is trying to take you to.
When used correctly, QR codes can be handy. But you should know that they can also carry out cyberattacks. It is therefore essential to take some precautions when using them. Also, along with these precautions, it is very important to be aware of new cybersecurity threats. So keep watching the trends to protect yourself.
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