By Image Analyzer on November 01, 2023

Decoding the Threat: Managing Malicious QR Codes in Emails

qrcodeThere has been a sudden and alarming growth in the distribution of QR codes via email which can resolve to malicious URLs. 

Images containing QR codes attached to emails pose a significant security risk to enterprises for several reasons:

  • Phishing Attacks:
    • QR codes can link to malicious websites designed to mimic legitimate ones. An attacker might craft a phishing email with a QR code that, when scanned, directs the user to a fake login page to steal credentials.

  • Malware Distribution:
    • QR codes can be used to distribute malware. Scanning a malicious QR code might trigger the download and installation of malware onto the device, compromising sensitive information or providing unauthorized access.

  • Social Engineering:
    • Attackers can use QR codes as part of a social engineering attack. For example, an email may instruct the recipient to scan the attached QR code to access urgent information, tricking them into taking actions that compromise security.

  • Data Interception:
    • QR codes might contain sensitive information directly. If intercepted or viewed by unauthorized individuals, this information can be exploited for malicious purposes, such as identity theft or corporate espionage.
  • Unauthenticated Sources:
    • Emails with attached QR codes might come from unauthenticated or untrusted sources. Users are more likely to trust QR codes received via email, increasing the risk of falling victim to scams or attacks.

  • Zero-Day Exploits:
    • QR code vulnerabilities, though less common, do exist. Exploiting these vulnerabilities can lead to unauthorized access, data breaches, or other security incidents.

  • Policy Violations:
    • Using QR codes in emails may violate an organization's security policies. Employees might inadvertently compromise security by scanning QR codes without proper validation or authorisation.

  • Lack of Visibility:
    • Enterprises often have limited visibility into the contents of QR codes. Unlike text-based URLs, the actual destination of a QR code may not be apparent until it is scanned, making it more challenging to assess the legitimacy of the link.

To mitigate these risks, enterprises should educate employees about the potential dangers associated with QR codes in emails and encourage them to follow security best practices, such as avoiding scanning QR codes from untrusted sources. Additionally, implementing email filtering systems, endpoint protection with Image Analyzer technology embedded, can help enhance overall cybersecurity defences.

Though many security vendors can detect malicious links in body of an email, they often struggle with the emerging trend of QR codes within embedded email images and attachements that lead to harmful sites.

Image Analyzer had developed and launched a new detection category which can identify images attached to emails which contain a QR code and then resolve the URL, to deliver it to a security vendors policy engine for further analysis. 

The QR code module from Image Analyzer has been launched in conjunction with several advanced DLP features including the ability to identify screengrabs of product plans, schematics, sensitive company data etc. attached to emails and also images of credit cards and other personal identifiable information.

Image Analyzer continue to develop specialist Visual Content Intelligence solutions which are then licensed to their OEM partners for existing and new security vulnerabilities. 

Contact the company on to discuss how their OEM technology can be incorporated into your IT security solution.  

#DLP #QRcodes  #endpoint #emailfiltering #insiderthreat #email 

Published by Image Analyzer November 1, 2023