There’s no doubt that these fascinating patterned QR codes have gained a lot of popularity recently. From payments to sharing files, they are being used for various purposes. However, like everything else related to technology, they also come with their own set of disadvantages.
One such disadvantage is that QR codes can carry out cyber-attacks. For instance, a seemingly harmless QR code sticker can lead to phishing sites. It is one of the most common strategies by which criminals exploit QR codes.
How cybercriminals use QR codes and why
There are a few ways cybercriminals use QR codes to commit crimes. The common among all methods is ‘luring the people with some cheesy offers or lotteries, etc.’ to scan them. Experts also note how such additions as QR codes unintentionally create more opportunities for malicious activities.
- Hidden fake websites
When it comes to luring people to malicious websites, cybercriminals create fake QR codes that look like they lead to a website with valuable information.
However, when victims scan these QR codes, they are taken to a website infected with malware. This malware can then gain access to the victim’s device and steal sensitive information.
- Files containing malware
The second way cybercriminals use QR codes is by creating codes containing files with hidden malware. When these QR codes are scanned, the malware is downloaded onto 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 like ransomware. Therefore, having an appropriate antivirus solution is necessary to detect the virus as quickly as possible. Even free antivirus tools can provide decent protection.
- Phishing via QR codes
Recently, QR codes have also been utilized to carry out phishing attacks. In this type of attack, the QR code leads victims to a fake login page that looks like the actual login page of a bank website or online service.
When victims enter their credentials on this fake login page, they give the cybercriminals access to their accounts.
- QRL hijacking
Another prominent issue that has come up is QRLjacking. This type of attack is carried out through QRs that provide direct login to a website or app.
Undoubtedly, QRs make the login process very easy, leading to some vulnerabilities. The poor implementation, such as not generating QR codes each time a user logs in, is one vulnerability responsible for exposing security flaws.
So, if these QRs are so dangerous, how could you protect yourself? Well, you can follow these below-given tips.
Tips to stay safe when using QR codes
Although QR codes are handy, they can be used to carry out cyberattacks. Therefore, it is crucial to take some precautions when using them.
- Don’t scan QR codes pasted on unknown locations
It is one of the most common ways cybercriminals lure victims into scanning malicious QR codes. Therefore, you should only scan QR codes that are from trusted sources. Even when you pay a shop owner using a QR code, try confirming from the owner that the QR belongs to him solely.
- Don’t click on shortened links
Another way cybercriminals lure people into scanning malicious QR codes is by sharing shortened links. These links usually lead to websites that are infected with malware. Therefore, you should avoid clicking on them.
- Avoid scanning QR codes sent via email or SMS
Many cybercriminals still believe that SMS and emails are helpful for cyberattacks. So, they send QR codes via email or SMS with a message that depicts that you have won a lottery or try to lure you with other schemes. But, when victims scan these codes, they download the malware onto 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
It is among 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 safely scan QR codes.
Talking about options for a VPN download, these tools can offer varying levels of protection:
- They encrypt all your internet traffic so that no one can snoop on your online activities.
- They also hide your IP address, making it difficult for cybercriminals to track you online.
- Some also have a built-in malware protection feature that further enhances your security.
- Other options also have protections against phishing or malicious ads. Therefore, it can block access to a fake site a QR code tries to take you.
When used correctly, QR codes can be handy. But you should be aware that they can also carry out cyberattacks. Therefore, it is vital to take some precautions when using them. Also, along with these precautions being aware of new cybersecurity threats is very important. So, keep looking at the trends to protect yourself.
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