|By Tomer Teller||
|February 23, 2012 06:45 AM EST||
Quick Response (QR) codes are intended to help direct users quickly and easily to information about products and services, but they are also starting to be used for social engineering exploits. This article looks at the emergence of QR scan scams and the rising concern for users today.
You don't have to look far these days to spot a QR code. From their humble beginnings in labelling and tracking parts used in vehicle manufacturing, these blocky little barcodes-on-steroids are being placed everywhere from product packaging, to posters and billboards, to magazines and newspapers.
QR codes are a jumping-off point from the offline to the online world. By simply scanning the code with your smartphone, people can quickly access the digital content triggered by the code - making them a marketer's dream because they make it easy to direct users toward information and services. What's more, they still retain a certain cool and curiosity factor, with users enjoying the point-and-browse convenience they offer.
However, this also makes them useful to hackers as a social engineering tool, to exploit user interest and trust and direct them to malicious websites or malware. While the concept of ‘drive-by downloads' is already well established as a stealthy tactic for stealing user data when web browsing, QR codes offer a new method for manipulating mobile users in a similar way.
A Matter of Trust
The issue with QR codes is that it forces users to trust the integrity of the code's provider and assume that the destination it leads to is legitimate. This is almost impossible for individuals to gauge because the QR code actually conceals the site and content it leads to. While social engineering exploits have evolved from the email worms of the early 2000s, they still rely on human curiosity to see what might happen when users click on an attachment or a QR code is scanned, which often leads to security problems.
Furthermore, QR code-scanning applications running on smartphones can provide a direct link to other smartphone capabilities, such as email, SMS, location-based services and application installations - further extending the potential risks to mobile devices. Let's look at how a potential QR code-based exploit could be mounted, and then at how to defend against it.
The first step in mounting a QR exploit is to distribute the code, to get it in front of potential victims. This could happen by embedding the QR code in an email - making it an elaborate phishing exploit - or by distributing plausible-looking physical documents with QR code on them, for example flyers at a trade show, or even stickers applied to genuine advertisement billboards.
Once the QR code is distributed, the attacker has a multitude of scam options to choose from. At a basic level, the code could simply redirect users to fake websites for phishing purposes - such as a fake online store or a payment site.
More sophisticated exploits involve hackers using the QR code to direct users to websites that will ‘jailbreak' their mobile device - that is, allow root access to the device's operating system and install malware. This is essentially a drive-by download attack on the device, enabling additional software or applications, such as key loggers and GPS trackers, to be installed without the user's knowledge or permission.
Targeting the Mobile Wallet
Perhaps the biggest potential risk to users is the rising use of mobile banking and payments via smartphones. With the ability of QR codes to jailbreak devices and tap into applications, this could give hackers virtual pick-pocket access to mobile wallets, especially as QR-based payment solutions already exist and are in use. While the uptake of these is currently small, it will grow as public acceptance of QR codes increases.
What can organizations and individual users do to mitigate the risks from QR codes? The most important precaution is being able to establish exactly what link or resource the QR code is going to launch when it's scanned. Some (not all) QR scanning applications give this visibility and - critically - ask the user to confirm if they wish to take the action. This gives users the opportunity to assess the link's validity before the code is activated.
For corporate smartphones, consider deploying data encryption so that even if a malicious QR code manages to install a Trojan on the device, sensitive data is still protected and not immediately accessible or usable by hackers.
In conclusion, the risks presented by QR codes are really a new spin on well-established hacking tricks and exploits. The security basics still apply - be cautious about what you scan, and use data encryption where possible. Or put simply: look before the QR leap.
The APN DevOps Competency highlights APN Partners who demonstrate deep capabilities delivering continuous integration, continuous delivery, and configuration management. They help customers transform their business to be more efficient and agile by leveraging the AWS platform and DevOps principles.
Oct. 7, 2015 08:15 AM EDT
As the world moves towards more DevOps and microservices, application deployment to the cloud ought to become a lot simpler. The microservices architecture, which is the basis of many new age distributed systems such as OpenStack, NetFlix and so on, is at the heart of Cloud Foundry - a complete developer-oriented Platform as a Service (PaaS) that is IaaS agnostic and supports vCloud, OpenStack and AWS. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Raghavan "Rags" Srinivas, an Architect/Developer Evangeli...
Oct. 7, 2015 08:00 AM EDT Reads: 124
What Is Emergent About Emergent Architecture? By @TheEbizWizard | @DevOpsSummit #DevOps #BigData #API
All we need to do is have our teams self-organize, and behold! Emergent design and/or architecture springs up out of the nothingness! If only it were that easy, right? I follow in the footsteps of so many people who have long wondered at the meanings of such simple words, as though they were dogma from on high. Emerge? Self-organizing? Profound, to be sure. But what do we really make of this sentence?
Oct. 7, 2015 08:00 AM EDT Reads: 380
Ten years ago, there may have been only a single application that talked directly to the database and spit out HTML; customer service, sales - most of the organizations I work with have been moving toward a design philosophy more like unix, where each application consists of a series of small tools stitched together. In web example above, that likely means a login service combines with webpages that call other services - like enter and update record. That allows the customer service team to writ...
Oct. 7, 2015 07:45 AM EDT Reads: 310
There once was a time when testers operated on their own, in isolation. They’d huddle as a group around the harsh glow of dozens of CRT monitors, clicking through GUIs and recording results. Anxiously, they’d wait for the developers in the other room to fix the bugs they found, yet they’d frequently leave the office disappointed as issues were filed away as non-critical. These teams would rarely interact, save for those scarce moments when a coder would wander in needing to reproduce a particula...
Oct. 7, 2015 05:00 AM EDT Reads: 275
In today's digital world, change is the one constant. Disruptive innovations like cloud, mobility, social media, and the Internet of Things have reshaped the market and set new standards in customer expectations. To remain competitive, businesses must tap the potential of emerging technologies and markets through the rapid release of new products and services. However, the rigid and siloed structures of traditional IT platforms and processes are slowing them down – resulting in lengthy delivery ...
Oct. 7, 2015 05:00 AM EDT Reads: 981
Last month, my partners in crime – Carmen DeArdo from Nationwide, Lee Reid, my colleague from IBM and I wrote a 3-part series of blog posts on DevOps.com. We titled our posts the Simple Math, Calculus and Art of DevOps. I would venture to say these are must-reads for any organization adopting DevOps. We examined all three ascpects – the Cultural, Automation and Process improvement side of DevOps. One of the key underlying themes of the three posts was the need for Cultural change – things like t...
Oct. 7, 2015 05:00 AM EDT Reads: 311
Several years ago, I was a developer in a travel reservation aggregator. Our mission was to pull flight and hotel data from a bunch of cryptic reservation platforms, and provide it to other companies via an API library - for a fee. That was before companies like Expedia standardized such things. We started with simple methods like getFlightLeg() or addPassengerName(), each performing a small, well-understood function. But our customers wanted bigger, more encompassing services that would "do ...
Oct. 7, 2015 04:30 AM EDT Reads: 505
In a report titled “Forecast Analysis: Enterprise Application Software, Worldwide, 2Q15 Update,” Gartner analysts highlighted the increasing trend of application modernization among enterprises. According to a recent survey, 45% of respondents stated that modernization of installed on-premises core enterprise applications is one of the top five priorities. Gartner also predicted that by 2020, 75% of
Oct. 7, 2015 04:00 AM EDT Reads: 265
It is with great pleasure that I am able to announce that Jesse Proudman, Blue Box CTO, has been appointed to the position of IBM Distinguished Engineer. Jesse is the first employee at Blue Box to receive this honor, and I’m quite confident there will be more to follow given the amazing talent at Blue Box with whom I have had the pleasure to collaborate. I’d like to provide an overview of what it means to become an IBM Distinguished Engineer.
Oct. 7, 2015 04:00 AM EDT Reads: 166
SYS-CON Events announced today that G2G3 will exhibit at SYS-CON's @DevOpsSummit Silicon Valley, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Based on a collective appreciation for user experience, design, and technology, G2G3 is uniquely qualified and motivated to redefine how organizations and people engage in an increasingly digital world.
Oct. 7, 2015 03:00 AM EDT Reads: 386
The cloud has reached mainstream IT. Those 18.7 million data centers out there (server closets to corporate data centers to colocation deployments) are moving to the cloud. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Achim Weiss, CEO & co-founder of ProfitBricks, will share how two companies – one in the U.S. and one in Germany – are achieving their goals with cloud infrastructure. More than a case study, he will share the details of how they prioritized their cloud computing infrastructure deployments ...
Oct. 7, 2015 03:00 AM EDT Reads: 692
If you are new to Python, you might be confused about the different versions that are available. Although Python 3 is the latest generation of the language, many programmers still use Python 2.7, the final update to Python 2, which was released in 2010. There is currently no clear-cut answer to the question of which version of Python you should use; the decision depends on what you want to achieve. While Python 3 is clearly the future of the language, some programmers choose to remain with Py...
Oct. 7, 2015 02:00 AM EDT Reads: 203
Opinions on how best to package and deliver applications are legion and, like many other aspects of the software world, are subject to recurring trend cycles. On the server-side, the current favorite is container delivery: a “full stack” approach in which your application and everything it needs to run are specified in a container definition. That definition is then “compiled” down to a container image and deployed by retrieving the image and passing it to a container runtime to create a running...
Oct. 7, 2015 12:30 AM EDT Reads: 162
Somebody call the buzzword police: we have a serious case of microservices-washing in progress. The term “microservices-washing” is derived from “whitewashing,” meaning to hide some inconvenient truth with bluster and nonsense. We saw plenty of cloudwashing a few years ago, as vendors and enterprises alike pretended what they were doing was cloud, even though it wasn’t. Today, the hype around microservices has led to the same kind of obfuscation, as vendors and enterprise technologists alike ar...
Oct. 7, 2015 12:00 AM EDT Reads: 394
“All our customers are looking at the cloud ecosystem as an important part of their overall product strategy. Some see it evolve as a multi-cloud / hybrid cloud strategy, while others are embracing all forms of cloud offerings like PaaS, IaaS and SaaS in their solutions,” noted Suhas Joshi, Vice President – Technology, at Harbinger Group, in this exclusive Q&A with Cloud Expo Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff.
Oct. 6, 2015 02:45 PM EDT Reads: 370
Clearly the way forward is to move to cloud be it bare metal, VMs or containers. One aspect of the current public clouds that is slowing this cloud migration is cloud lock-in. Every cloud vendor is trying to make it very difficult to move out once a customer has chosen their cloud. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Naveen Nimmu, CEO of Clouber, Inc., will advocate that making the inter-cloud migration as simple as changing airlines would help the entire industry to quickly adopt the cloud wit...
Oct. 6, 2015 12:30 PM EDT Reads: 590
Culture is the most important ingredient of DevOps. The challenge for most organizations is defining and communicating a vision of beneficial DevOps culture for their organizations, and then facilitating the changes needed to achieve that. Often this comes down to an ability to provide true leadership. As a CIO, are your direct reports IT managers or are they IT leaders? The hard truth is that many IT managers have risen through the ranks based on their technical skills, not their leadership ab...
Oct. 6, 2015 11:00 AM EDT Reads: 853
Apps and devices shouldn't stop working when there's limited or no network connectivity. Learn how to bring data stored in a cloud database to the edge of the network (and back again) whenever an Internet connection is available. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Bradley Holt, Developer Advocate at IBM Cloud Data Services, will demonstrate techniques for replicating cloud databases with devices in order to build offline-first mobile or Internet of Things (IoT) apps that can provide a better, ...
Oct. 6, 2015 10:45 AM EDT Reads: 456
Despite all the talk about public cloud services and DevOps, you would think the move to cloud for enterprises is clear and simple. But in a survey of almost 1,600 IT decision makers across the USA and Europe, the state of the cloud in enterprise today is still fraught with considerable frustration. The business case for apps in the real world cloud is hybrid, bimodal, multi-platform, and difficult. Download this report commissioned by NTT Communications to see the insightful findings – registra...
Oct. 6, 2015 10:00 AM EDT Reads: 216