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Malicious QR codes on the rise in phishing campaigns

A new wave of phishing techniques has been targeting multiple industries. Anyone heard of ‘Quishing’?

Phishing links within emails are not a new problem, with the most common email lures often coming in the form of a request to update bank or payment details, updating personal details, or concerning account security.

These lures are often accompanied with social engineering. Commonly, threat actors threaten fines or account closures, sometimes even law enforcement involvement to encourage victims to engage.

However, a new spin on the phishing campaign has seen in increase just recently – and it’s been given the nickname ‘quishing’ (QR + phishing = quishing).

Threat actors are employing QR codes within their emails or attachments that re-direct users to a spoofed page.

Another method is changing a legitimate QR for a malicious version without the owner’s knowledge, or using a third-party QR scanner app which can also lead to a malicious domain.

In recent weeks, researchers have identified an increase in malicious QR codes being embedded within emails or attachments in lieu of traditional links. The code directs users to a fake, but convincing, webpage, for example a Microsoft page requiring log in credentials. Unlike simple links, these codes are more likely to reach a victim’s inbox as they are more difficult to detect as malicious.

QR codes became increasingly popular during the Covid-19 pandemic, with a huge array of companies using them to interact with their customers – from restaurants replacing physical menus with online versions to medical centres allowing customers to provide feedback of services easily.

The risk for compromise is relatively low if the QR code is received onto a mobile phone as there doesn’t seem to be a way to execute a QR code without physically scanning it. However, if these codes can be scanned from another copy, it’s encouraged to exercise the same caution as would be given to suspicious or unexpected URLs.

To learn more about phishing, quishing, smishing etc, and to get your staff up-to-speed with the latest threats to your business, talk to us about Security Awareness Training. Your staff can be the first barriers against a cyber attack.



Report all Fraud and Cybercrime to Action Fraud by calling 0300 123 2040 or online. Forward suspicious emails to Report SMS scams by forwarding the original message to 7726 (spells SPAM on the keypad).



The contents of blog posts on this website are provided for general information only and are not intended to replace specific professional advice relevant to your situation. The intention of East Midlands Cyber Resilience Centre (EMCRC) is to encourage cyber resilience by raising issues and disseminating information on the experiences and initiatives of others. Articles on the website cannot by their nature be comprehensive and may not reflect most recent legislation, practice, or application to your circumstances. EMCRC provides affordable services and Trusted Partners if you need specific support. For specific questions please contact us by email.


EMCRC does not accept any responsibility for any loss which may arise from reliance on information or materials published on this blog. EMCRC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites that link to this site or which are linked from it.

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