Staying Safe from Quishing Attacks: A Complete Guide

Staying Safe from Quishing Attacks: A Complete Guide


4 min read

Quishing, a combination of QR codes and phishing, represents an emerging online threat that targets individuals and businesses alike. As QR code usage continues to grow, hackers leverage these scannable images to distribute malware, steal data, and compromise accounts.

Fortunately, with some awareness and caution, quishing attacks can be prevented. This comprehensive guide will explain what quishing is, how it works, the risks it poses, and most importantly - how to keep yourself and your organization safe.

What is Quishing?

Quishing refers to a type of phishing attack that uses QR codes to direct victims to malicious sites or downloads.

QR (short for "quick response") codes are square barcodes that can be scanned by a smartphone camera. They commonly link to websites, apps, or other online content.

In a quishing scam, attackers create weaponized QR codes designed to infect devices, steal login credentials, or gain access to sensitive information when scanned. The codes may be placed on flyers, product packaging, restaurant menus, or other publicly displayed materials to snare unsuspecting users.

How Do Quishing Attacks Work?

Quishing attacks typically unfold in several stages:

  1. QR Code Creation: Hackers use free online tools or apps to generate malicious QR codes linking to phishing pages, malware downloads, or other harmful content.

  2. Code Distribution: Codes are strategically placed in high-traffic public areas where many users will encounter and scan them. Locations can include transit stations, shopping centers, restaurants, parks, airports, and more.

  3. Victim Scanning: A user scans what appears to be an innocent QR code, unintentionally releasing malware onto their device, visiting a phishing site, or enabling account compromise.

  4. Attack Objective Achieved: Depending on the attack vector, the hacker may now have access to install more malware, steal credentials, hijack accounts, monitor device activity, encrypt files for ransom, and more criminal objectives.

What Are the Risks of Quishing?

Quishing attacks open up many avenues for hackers to violate privacy or profit from stolen data and access. Specific risks include:

  • Malware infections - Weaponized codes can download spyware, viruses, Remote Access Trojans, info-stealing malware, and other threats. These undermine device security and enable further bombardment.

  • Phishing - Codes often direct to fake login pages to harvest usernames, passwords, bank details, SSNs, and more sensitive inputs.

  • Financial fraud - Stolen credentials provide access to bank accounts, payment apps, and credit cards. Hackers can drain or make unauthorized purchases.

  • Ransomware - Some codes install data-encrypting malware that locks files until the victim pays a ransom to regain access.

  • Spear phishing - With obtained contacts, hackers can send authentic-looking but malicious emails to associates.

  • Identity theft - Quishing enables collectors of extremely valuable personal data like names, birth dates, addresses, etc. to fully assume identities.

  • Account takeover - Access to accounts like social media and email enables hackers to message contacts, post dangerous links as the victim, and more.

These represent only some attack possibilities. As QR code use increases, so too will quishing threats in new forms.

8 Tips to Avoid Quishing Scams

While quishing is an emerging and sometimes tricky phishing tactic to spot, there are preventative steps users and businesses can implement:

  1. Avoid unknown codes - Only scan codes from trusted sources and entities you verify. Avoid public codes without context.

  2. Check the URL - Preview links before accessing and look for misspellings or domain mismatches. Secure sites should show "https".

  3. Use device scanner - Leverage your smartphone camera's built-in scanner, rather than third-party apps more vulnerable to hackers.

  4. Verify urgency claims - Messages insisting "immediate action required" often indicate phishing. Verify claims through separate communication channels before proceeding.

  5. Install security software - Protect devices with comprehensive antivirus and anti-malware tools to block known threats.

  6. Apply updates - Maintain devices, apps, browsers and operating systems updated to patch vulnerabilities hackers exploit.

  7. Enable MFA - Activate Multi-Factor Authentication wherever possible to secure accounts even if credentials are compromised.

  8. Educate employees - Train staff to identify and avoid scams so human judgment bolsters technical defenses. Test with simulations.

Caution paired with cybersecurity best practices makes quishing significantly more difficult and less rewarding for attackers.


As connectivity continues growing through technologies like QR codes, hackers are finding new attack surfaces to exploit. Quishing leverages the inherent trust users place in QR scans to lower defenses and distribute threats.

Being aware of what quishing entails, how it works, and the risks associated with it is vital for keeping safe. Applying the tips outlined here provides actionable ways to avoid falling victim personally or exposing organizational assets. Remaining vigilant and security-conscious conquers fears and frustrations cyberattacks often intend to incite.

Shielding against quishing helps secure the many conveniences of an increasingly digitized world against those looking to take advantage. With care, QR codes can continue providing services, engagement, and entertainment safely to users worldwide.