How to detect and predict Quid Pro Quo attacks

22 November 2023 6 minutes Author: Cyber Witcher

The defense against Quid Pro Quo attacks is to raise awareness and be skeptical of any offers that seem too favorable or unexpected. We look at how Quid Pro Quo attacks are implemented, what their characteristics are, and how you can protect yourself and your organization from this type of cyber threat.

Social Engineering: Quid Pro Quo Attacks

A Quid Pro Quo attack is characterized by a give-and-take exchange. It literally means something for something. This notion of exchange is crucial because as humans we obey the law of psychological reciprocity. This means that every time someone gives us something or does us a favor, we feel obligated to return the favor.

In the case of Quid Pro Quo, the promised benefit or benefit in exchange for information usually takes the form of a service (if it takes the form of a good, it is harassment).

Let’s say you were approached by an IT professional and asked to audit your computer to remove potential viruses that could slow down your computer’s performance. But for this he needs your login and password. There is nothing more natural! You give him this information without any discussion: after all, you’ve been complaining about your computer slowing down for months. Except that this exchange of good will may be a failure, and that you may have just fallen into the trap of a quid pro quo attack.

Quid Pro Quo attacks are based on manipulation and abuse of trust. As such, they fall under the category of social engineering techniques such as phishing attacks (including phishing attacks and whaling attacks), phishing or pretexting.

Definition of a Quid Pro Quo Attack

Technically speaking, Quid Pro Quo is a type of bullying method. However, instead of forcing someone to fall for something out of their own curiosity or fear, cyber actors offer them something in return. The Latin expression means “service for service” and that’s basically what it boils down to. Attackers offer you something in exchange for information.

What can happen after a Quid Pro Quo attack?

The Worst Part of a Quid Pro Quo Social Engineering Attack? In most cases, this is not the last component of the attack; Attackers often use the gateway to open a business or target other predatory activities. Here are just a few examples of the consequences of a Quid Pro Quo attack.

Phishing emails

A Quid Pro Quo attack doesn’t always give the impression that it reveals anything. For example, your email address, which may not seem important to you at the moment, may be the only thing they were looking for in the first place. Once you’ve got this in hand, get ready for a barrage of malicious, phishing and spam emails.

Ransomware attacks

The threat doesn’t necessarily come from what you sold. Sometimes what you get in return can be real poison. In some Quid Pro Quo attack situations, attackers convince the victim that they are making a reasonable trade or transaction for a genuine product or service.

However, if they are given a link to visit or a file to download, it will be too late. Attackers can send you corrupted scripts and malicious files to steal your information, infect your equipment, and even infect your company’s entire system.

Examples of Quid Pro Quo Attacks

One of the most common Quid Pro Quo attack scenarios involves imposters posing as an IT employee. The hacker contacts as many company employees as possible on their direct line to offer alleged IT support.

The hacker will promise to fix the problem quickly in exchange for disabling the antivirus program. Once disabled, a rogue technician can install malware on victims’ computers by posing as a software updater.

In another common scenario, a hacker seeks to steal an employee’s credentials. And here the fraudster will contact the employee, posing as a technical specialist from an IT company specializing in troubleshooting errors and software problems. After asking the victim a few questions to determine what problems he has with the PC, he will offer to look at it:

No problem, I will solve your problems immediately! All I need is your login and password!

This is a red flag you should be aware of!

How to avoid Quid Pro Quo attacks

As with other types of social engineering, you should take precautions to protect yourself and your sensitive data.

  • Be careful: a “gift” or “favor” is never completely free. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is! At worst, it’s a quid pro quo attack.

  • Never share personal or account information unless you initiated the exchange. After a potential intrusion where you entered your login details, please change your password to prevent further use.

  • When the company contacts you, call them back at the phone number listed on their website. Never call them back from a phone number provided by someone you spoke with.

  • If you are not sure about the call you received, it is better to leave it.

  • Use strong passwords and change them regularly.

  • Learn to recognize social engineering techniques and other cyber threats.

Protect your organization

A quid pro quo attack can also be used to obtain information to launch a more dangerous attack on a business, such as a phishing or ransomware attack. Therefore, you should not neglect this type of attack, and your company should take measures to protect against them:

  • All your employees should be aware of cyber threats and cyber security. They must be able to identify the manipulative tactics used in quid pro quo attacks or other types of social engineering techniques. They must also refrain from communicating confidential data over the phone or email;

  • Use cyber security tools to protect your computer systems, such as a firewall and anti-virus software;

  • Use secure tools to store your information. Don’t forget your e-mail: e-mail protected by end-to-end encryption ensures that only recipients you’ve verified can read the messages your contributors will send;

  • Enable two-factor authentication (2FA) whenever a site or app offers it.

  • Make sure you regularly back up your data on different media, one of which will be stored outside of your company. If you can, also implement a disaster recovery plan. If your data is compromised, it will be easier for you to maintain your business and avoid financial losses.


Quid Pro Quo emails are similar to other email and cyber attack techniques. However, something enticing on offer can attract far more victims than a simple sense of urgency. In many scenarios, temptation is a stronger driving force than irrational fear and is often more reliable.

Remember to be careful when dealing with attractive offers on the Internet. Do your research and take precautions, but if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

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