What are QR codes? Here’s How To Securely Scan A QR Code
A QR code, also known as a Quick Response Code, is a type of two-dimensional matrix barcode invented in 1994 by the Japanese company Denso Wave for labelling automobile parts. We believe that QR codes are like modern-day keys that can unlock information with just a single scan. These codes have become universal, appearing in advertisements, restaurant menus, and government documents. In this article, we will share a guide on how to scan QR codes securely.
According to a study on QR codes, the use of QR codes has skyrocketed in recent years, making them a popular tool for hackers to spread malware or lift personal information. We’ll give you the essential guide for safely scanning QR codes and protecting yourself from potential risks.
What are QR codes?
A QR code is a type of barcode that can be read by a device such as a camera and processed until the image can be appropriately interpreted, and that stores information on black squares arranged in a square grid on a white background, including some fiducial markers.
Moreover, QR codes use four standardized encoding modes, including numeric, alphanumeric, byte or binary, and kanji, to store data efficiently. As you may know, QR codes are used for everything from billboard advertisements to parcel delivery tracking and making payments. QR codes offer a lot of versatility. It can be printed on various materials, such as paper, plastic, or metal. Plus, you can scan them from many different angles and distances.
Form these factors, QR code fraud on the rise:
With the rise in the use of QR codes, hackers have found an opportunity to exploit this trend and obtain valuable personal data with minimal effort. The danger of QR codes lies in their design, as malicious codes can be found anywhere and cannot be specified from legitimate codes. Simply looking at them makes it impossible to detect fraudulent codes as they are similar in size and shape. Here are some factors increasing QR code fraud:
- Fraudsters are taking advantage of restaurant QR codes
- The risks of sharing public Wi-Fi and network access
- Dangers of smart packaging
- The dark side of financial QR code transactions
- QR codes in healthcare and medical fraud .
How to stay safe when scanning QR codes
While QR codes themselves are considered secure by cyber security experts, the context in which they are used can pose a risk to users. Therefore it is important to scan with caution.
Before Scanning – Is It A Scam? So follow these tips to avoid getting scammed by malicious QR codes.
Scan codes from trusted sources only
Avoid scanning QR codes placed on random stickers, advertisements, or flyers—for example, don’t go around scanning QR codes posted on your local neighbourhood bulletin board.
Check if the QR code has been tampered with
One technique scammers use to trick people into scanning a malicious code is by pasting a fake QR code on top of a real QR code. If you’re unsure, physically inspect the code to see if it’s printed or has a sticker on it.
When you scan a code, most phones preview the URL before you open it. Often you can tell if it looks suspicious. Alternatively, sites like ZXing Decoder can help you read the contents of the QR code. If you’re ordering food at a restaurant or scanning for information at your local gym, verify that the URL is correct by asking the staff.
Keep your devices up to date
To protect against the latest threats, keep your device’s operating system and apps up to date. This makes you less vulnerable to an attack even if you scan a malicious QR code.
Be careful with QR codes that request access to personal information, such as your location or contacts. Allow access only from trusted sources.
Do not download QR Code Reader.
All modern smartphones can read QR codes with the camera, but many people don’t realize it and pay for QR code scanner apps.
Report Malicious or Suspicious QR Code
If you encounter a QR code you suspect may lead to a scam, report it to the appropriate authority, such as the Federal Trade Commission, at reportfraud.ftc.gov (if you’re in the US).