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NITDA warns Nigerians against QR code scams

The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) has issued a cautionary alert to Nigerians, urging them to exercise caution when scanning QR codes due to a surge in fraudulent activities orchestrated by scammers.

In its latest advisory posted on its official X account on Sunday, the agency highlighted the alarming trend of malicious actors exploiting QR codes for various fraudulent schemes, including phishing scams, payment fraud, data theft, and identity theft.

QR codes, recognized as machine-readable codes composed of black and white squares, are typically used for storing URLs or other information accessible by smartphone cameras. However, NITDA emphasized that while QR codes are fast and convenient for accessing information and actions, they have unfortunately become a tool exploited by scammers for fraudulent activities.

The agency cautioned users to remain vigilant and implement necessary precautions before scanning QR codes to mitigate the risk of falling victim to cyber scams. NITDA revealed that fraudsters deploy multifaceted methods to perpetrate their illicit activities through QR codes.

Phishing scammers can generate QR codes that point to malicious applications or phishing websites, leading users to unwittingly disclose sensitive information. Similarly, scammers can create QR codes that initiate illicit transactions or reroute payments to their accounts.

Furthermore, threat actors may embed malicious payloads like malware or data-stealing scripts within QR codes, exploiting security vulnerabilities in users’ devices to steal private documents, financial information, and passwords.

To safeguard against these threats, NITDA advised users to exercise caution when scanning codes from unfamiliar sources or unsolicited messages, emphasizing the importance of verifying the legitimacy of QR codes and associated links before proceeding with scanning.

Additionally, the agency recommended the use of reputable QR code scanning apps equipped with built-in security features and encouraged users to keep their devices updated with the latest antivirus software and security patches.

Looking ahead, NITDA’s advisory coincides with predictions from the Cyber Security Experts Association of Nigeria regarding an anticipated rise in insider threats for the country in 2024, driven by the malicious use of artificial intelligence.

To address this escalating threat landscape, experts emphasize the importance of investing in advanced security technologies and enhancing the capabilities of cybersecurity personnel through a multi-faceted approach.

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