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Enterprise Insights: Image-Based and QR Code Phishing Attacks

Despite IT/Sec leaders expressing high confidence in their security stack, Image-Based and Quishing attacks are hitting inboxes, highlighting a serious gap in email security strategies.

Osterman Image-Based White Paper Hero Graphic

On-Demand Webinar

Fortifying the Organization Against Image-Based and QR Code Attacks

In this webinar, learn about the frequency and severity of image-based attacks and the strategies employed by security professionals to combat them.

About the Study

Osterman Research surveyed 300 IT and security professionals responsible for email security at U.S. enterprises. They sought to learn about the prevalence and complexity of emerging image-based and QR code phishing attacks facing enterprises today, including:

  • How frequently do organizations encounter these emerging attacks, and the impact of these attacks on the security posture?
  • What strategies and technologies security pros are employing to detect and mitigate quishing attacks?
  • How confident orgs are in their ability to detect the attacks before they breach employee inboxes?

Key Insight: While over 70% of organizations feel their current stack is effective against image-based and QR code phishing attacks, nearly 76% were still compromised within past 12 months.

A striking paradox lies at the heart of modern email security. Despite high levels of confidence among organizations in their defensive capabilities and in their employees’ and executives’ ability to spot phishing emails, image-based and QR code phishing attacks continue to breach their defenses with unsettling frequency. This discrepancy between the perceived effectiveness of security protocols and the reality of ongoing infiltrations underscores a concerning gap in current cybersecurity strategies. As these emerging attacks grow increasingly complex, the need for a comprehensive reassessment of email security approaches becomes more urgent, challenging organizations to bridge the confidence-security paradox with immediate technical and training improvements.  

This research explores how organizations are positioned to respond to new and emerging types of phishing attacks, and complements our recent investigations for IRONSCALES on the business cost of phishing and business email compromise attacks

  • Image-based and QR code phishing attacks are after account credentials and sensitive information: 75.8% of organizations have been compromised by image-based and QR code phishing attacks over the past 12 months. Compromising account credentials (72%) and stealing sensitive information (70.6%) are the most common motives.
  • Key threat indicators are expected to get worse—especially those controlled by cyberthreat actors: 60% of respondents believe the number, sophistication, and evasiveness of image-based and QR code phishing attacks will get worse over the coming 12 months, and yet these threat indicators are controlled by cyberthreat actors. Organizations must respond by fortifying their email security defenses through augmentation, optimization, or a wholesale change.
  • Startling misalignment between the assertion and reality of efficacy: More than 70% of respondents assess their current email security stack as highly effective at detecting image-based and QR code phishing attacks, yet only 5.5% of respondents were able to detect and block all image-based and QR code phishing attacks from reaching users’ inboxes over the past 12 months. This misalignment is startling. 
  • Training users and augmenting email security seen as the key investments: 80% of organizations are emphasizing training users and augmenting their current email security stack as the two highest-ranked strategies to address image-based and QR code phishing attacks over the next 12 months.
  • Better cybersecurity awareness training and phishing simulations are essential: Organizations must continuously evolve their phishing simulation programs to mirror the latest phishing techniques observed, providing employees with practical and current examples they may see if the organization’s technical measures fail. Some email security vendors are leveraging generative AI to craft micro-targeted phishing simulation tests optimized for each individual.

Emerging Image-based and QR Code Phishing Attacks

Emerging image-based and QR-code phishing attacks are top of mind as a new attack vector at most organizations, and that is no surprise due to attacks bypassing current email defenses. The threats are significant and expected to continue. 

High Awareness of Emerging Types of Phishing Attacks

Respondents indicate high awareness of all types of phishing attacks, with image-based phishing attacks and QR code phishing attacks ranking first and third-highest in awareness, respectively. 

More than nine out of ten respondents are aware of image-based attacks being sent to people in their organization, and just under eight out of ten...




IRONSCALES is the leading cloud email security platform for the enterprise that uses machine learning and AI to stop advanced phishing attacks that bypass traditional security solutions. Its award-winning self-learning platform continuously detects and remediates advanced threats like Business Email Compromise (BEC), credential harvesting, Account Takeover (ATO), and more. As the most powerfully simple email security platform, IRONSCALES helps enterprises reduce risk, boost security team efficiency, and build a culture of cybersecurity awareness.  

IRONSCALES is headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, and is proud to support more than 10,000 customers globally.  

Visit www.ironscales.com or @IRONSCALES to learn more.