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How to stay safe from cybercriminal “quishing” attacks

“Quishing” (Quick Phishing) attacks are a relatively new form of cyber threat that targets individuals through the use of quick response (QR) codes. These attacks exploit the convenience and widespread use of QR codes in daily activities, such as accessing menus at restaurants, making payments, or downloading apps, turning them into a vector for phishing attempts. Quishing can lead to various security risks, including identity theft, financial loss, and unauthorized access to personal and corporate data. Staying safe from such attacks requires vigilance and adopting specific cybersecurity practices.

Understanding Quishing

Quishing attacks typically involve a cybercriminal embedding a malicious link into a QR code. When unsuspecting users scan the QR code with their smartphone, they are directed to a phishing website designed to mimic a legitimate site, prompting them to enter sensitive information such as login credentials, personal details, or payment information. Because QR codes are a form of black-and-white matrix barcode that can store a lot of information in a small space and can’t be read directly by humans, it’s challenging to know what URL they contain until after you’ve scanned them and potentially exposed yourself to a threat.

How to Protect Yourself from Quishing Attacks

Be Cautious with Unknown QR Codes

Exercise caution before scanning QR codes, especially those received from unknown sources or found in public places. Cybercriminals can easily place their malicious QR codes over legitimate ones on posters, flyers, or tabletop stands.

Verify the Source

Whenever possible, verify the authenticity of the QR code with the issuing organization or individual, especially if it leads to a webpage requiring personal or financial information. If a QR code is supposed to direct you to a well-known website, compare the URL of the site you’re directed to with the known URL of the site, looking for any discrepancies.

Use a Secure QR Code Scanner

Some QR code scanning apps offer security features that can check the safety of the link before opening it in your browser. These apps may provide a preview of the URL, allowing you to see where the link will take you before you commit to following it.

Keep Your Mobile Devices Secure

Ensure that your smartphone or tablet is equipped with comprehensive security software that includes web protection, which can help detect and block malicious websites. Regularly update your device’s operating system and apps to protect against the latest security vulnerabilities.

Educate Yourself and Others

Awareness is a powerful tool against phishing attacks of all kinds, including quishing. Familiarize yourself with the latest quishing tactics and share this knowledge with friends, family, and colleagues. The more people know about these threats, the less likely they are to fall victim to them.

Be Skeptical of Personal Information Requests

Legitimate companies rarely ask for sensitive information, such as passwords or financial details, via QR code links. Always be skeptical of any request for personal information and verify the request through an official website or customer service line.

Report Suspicious QR Codes

If you encounter a QR code that you believe is part of a quishing scam, report it to the appropriate authorities or the platform where you found it. This can help prevent others from falling victim to the same attack.


As technology evolves, so do the tactics used by cybercriminals. Quishing attacks exploit the convenience of QR codes to deceive individuals into divulging sensitive information. By exercising caution, verifying sources, using secure scanning apps, keeping devices updated, educating oneself and others, being skeptical of information requests, and reporting suspicious activity, you can significantly reduce your risk of falling victim to a quishing scam. Staying informed and vigilant is key to navigating the digital world safely.