May 10, 2024

Beyond Traditional Phishing: The Rising Threat of Vishing and Quishing

During their initial phases, phishing attacks were typically rudimentary, relying on simple impersonation tactics through written communication, such as emails, to deceive individuals and gain access to sensitive data. However, as attackers adapt to the evolution of AI, their techniques have advanced. With the rise of GenAI tools, Voice-based and QR code phishing attacks, commonly known as “Vishing” and “Quishing”, respectively, have become increasingly prevalent. Organizations now face the challenge of combating this evolution by enhancing their security measures to stay ahead of these sophisticated threats.

Phishing: The Gateway to Larger-scale Attacks

To comprehend the significance of phishing in the malware industry, it is crucial to examine the anatomy of an attack. While ransomware tends to dominate headlines due to its ability to monetize successful payload delivery in the latter stages of an infection cycle, less attention is given to the initial infection cycle itself, which frequently begins with something as straightforward as phishing. The reconnaissance phase at the onset of an attack assumes an even greater importance in the defense strategy, as it sets the foundation for subsequent actions.

As attackers seek to understand an organization's attack surface, phishing serves as a mechanism for harvesting confidential personal information, including credentials, or deploying zero-day malware to gain unauthorized access to specific machines. With perpetrators leveraging advanced AI techniques to deceive users, it becomes imperative for organizations to prioritize the reduction of their attack surface while implementing sophisticated behavioral analysis mechanisms. By doing so, organizations can enhance their defenses against evolving threats and mitigate the risks associated with phishing attacks.

Phishing 2.0: Vishing & Quishing


The user bait tactics have undergone a transformation somewhat, progressing from simple email scams to highly personalized attacks that leverage leading-edge technologies such as AI tools. With increased user awareness of traditional phishing campaigns, attackers have devised new channels and techniques to deceive their targets. One such technique gaining popularity is fake phone calls, also known as “vishing.” In vishing attacks, the perpetrators utilize voice cloning tools to imitate the voice of a senior executive or another trusted individual. These tools analyze and replicate the distinct characteristics of a human voice, employing AI to mimic the voice while delivering various messages. When combined with traditional phishing methods, vishing poses a significant challenge for users to differentiate between genuine and fraudulent communication.

In one of the first known cases of voice deepfake utilization for fraudulent purposes, the CEO of a UK-based energy company became a victim of deception. Under false pretenses, the CEO was manipulated into transferring an amount totaling around $243,000 to a supplier in Hungary. The fraudsters employed advanced artificial intelligence (AI) technology to generate a voice deepfake, successfully imitating the CEO of the parent company. This convincing mimicry led the victim to believe he was engaging in a conversation with his actual boss, ultimately facilitating the illicit transfer.


In the realm of phishing, voice cloning is not the only notable advancement. The emerging trend set to impact 2024 is “Quishing.” In this technique, a QR code is sent via email, concealing a malicious link behind the image. This method presents challenges in verification and often bypasses security tools, posing a significant risk, particularly for employees who utilize their personal smartphones, which are typically inadequately protected. 

In the example below, the email body contains an inline embedded QR code. When the user scans the QR code, it maliciously redirects them to a phishing website that aims to deceive and collect their credentials.

Figure 1: QR code as an image within email body redirecting to a malicious website. [Image Credits: Microsoft Community Hub]

The Crucial Imperative of Verification in Today's Cyber World

Presently, employees tend to place excessive trust in available security solutions and may not exercise enough caution when encountering suspicious communications. It is imperative for individuals to exercise vigilance, especially when receiving phone calls from familiar individuals with unusual or unexpected requests. In such cases, employees should always verify the authenticity of the caller before taking any action, ensuring they authenticate the person's identity before proceeding.

In the modern hybrid working environment, where face-to-face interaction is not always feasible, it is highly recommended to utilize alternative communication channels to verify initial information. For instance, if a potential vishing call occurs via WhatsApp, the targeted individual should consider using a different communication channel such as using email to authenticate the identity of the colleague on the call. Furthermore, to ensure account security and prevent further compromises, employees should never disclose personal data or passwords over the phone or via email, even if requested. It is important to note that internal staff members should never require another person's password to access data or assets within the system, eliminating the need to share such sensitive details with anyone else.

Employ Zero Trust and Multi-Channel Verification

To effectively combat the constantly evolving techniques employed by phishing attacks, it is imperative to adopt a Zero Trust approach as the standard security solution. However, it is crucial to understand that a Zero Trust mindset should extend beyond technology and encompass a human-centric approach.

This entails providing comprehensive training to personnel, emphasizing the importance of avoiding blind trust in a single source of information. Instead, individuals should consistently practice information verification through diverse and reliable channels, thereby strengthening their resilience against the ever-advancing landscape of misinformation and disinformation campaigns.

The proactive pursuit of information verification assumes even greater significance as AI assumes an increasingly influential role in shaping and propagating deceptive narratives. This underscores the critical need for continuous vigilance to counter the pervasive threats posed by phishing attacks. 

Safeguard Your Digtal Assets with Nexusguard DDoS Protection Solutions


Nexusguard is a prominent provider of distributed denial of service (DDoS) security solutions, committed to actively combatting malevolent Internet attacks. With an unwavering focus on safeguarding clients from these threats, Nexusguard delivers a comprehensive suite of services designed to ensure uninterrupted Internet service, optimization, visibility, and peak performance. By leveraging its profound expertise, Nexusguard crafts tailored cybersecurity solutions that cater to the distinct business and technical requirements of clients spanning diverse industries. Furthermore, Nexusguard empowers Communications Service Providers by enabling them to offer DDoS protection solutions as a service, thereby augmenting their capabilities in meeting the evolving needs of their clientele. For a more detailed understanding of Nexusguard's extensive range of anti-DDoS solutions, please refer to the following link or reach out to one of our experts via our contact form.

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