Every day QR codes help to connect more and more people. These can be used for many things, including paying, sending your information, opening documents, and more. They are pretty helpful, and we are getting accustomed to using them more often, which is good. However, as with many other new technologies, people find ways to cheat the system and take advantage.
That being said, you must know that QR codes are not the exception. There are hackers around the world that dedicate a lot of time to stealing information from those codes. Now being used as a payment method, there is a lot of money going through those codes, so be alert and safe.
QR Scanning Process
Many people that use this system might not know what happens when they scan the code. However, the process is not the same in every case. It depends on the phone, the app you are using, and what the QR code contains.
Many phones come with an automatic scanner that will scan any code if you open your camera and hold it over the code. However, other phones need a scanner app to do it. This will affect how your phone will scan the code.
In the case where the QR code contains a URL for a webpage, two things can happen. One, the code will take you straight to the webpage, or it could send you a pop-up message where it asks you whether you want to proceed and go to the webpage or not.
QR Code Issues
As explained before, people try to cheat the system and profit from it, meaning that they are stealing with this new technology.
The QR codes can be used to link them to an URL or internet link. Since you cannot see the link before scanning the code, you might open a malicious link for your phone without even noticing. Most people might not know that QR codes have the potential to text someone, write an email, or even make a phone call.
The QR codes on social media apps can generate issues with your smartphone since they can even add a contact to your phone or share your location. All of this can happen without even the victim knowing. This could be a pretty tricky issue since they can take information from you, and you can’t do anything since you’re not aware of what is happening.
There is a special kind of code that is especially risky. The dynamic QR codes can be altered after the QR code was generated. This means that you can receive a QR that delivers you to a restaurant menu one day, and the following day, someone can alter it to take you to a different URL. This is very dangerous. People might think they know what that code is but don’t, and they end up trusting a mystery QR code.
Also, the mass implementation of QR codes went hand in hand with the implementation of cryptocurrencies. The issue with this fact is that usually, Bitcoin addresses are given through QR codes. They usually do it that way because it is far easier compared to an actual Bitcoin address. This gave the possibility to people to steal Bitcoins.
How to Avoid Scams
There are some things you could do to prevent scams. It will not assure 100% that nothing will happen. But if you follow these tips, you will probably avoid falling for a scam and save yourself some issues.
You should first contact the person who sent you the QR code and ask them if they sent it willingly. Sometimes hackers manage to send QR codes, and the supposed sender doesn’t even realize it.
The second thing you should do is look for the URL that appeared right after you scan the code. These URLs can be harmful to your smartphone or computer, or they can follow you to an undesired webpage. You never know, be careful.
Also, you should have a mobile defense solution that will help you detect phishing attempts and unauthorized downloads. However, nothing can be confident, and be sure that QR codes are risky. People will probably create something soon to make them safer, but still, you should be careful.
You can ask yourself a couple of questions before you scan one of these codes. The first will be if there is anything else you can do instead of scanning the code. You might be able to type the URL. Another question that can help you is whether you can see the link before going inside it and getting a pop-up message.
The last question you should ask yourself is if the QR code is made to need a specific scanner app, or you can open it with the camera by itself. Some codes need you to download a scanner app to be opened; otherwise, they are just unscannable.
QR codes are an excellent advancement in technology, and I believe we can give them good use. But first, we need to control the system. We have the opportunity to change many things with these codes shortly. This system can eliminate many minutes of just typing down information. The QR codes are very fast to access. Instead of going into the internet and typing the link, you can be on the web pages in seconds.
However, we need to be careful; hackers everywhere are trying to get anything up for grabs. The codes contain information, so maybe it is something you don’t want to share with strangers. It will be beneficial to make them as secure as having the information in your pocket, but for now, it is believed that we should use them for non-important documents or valuable passwords.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can a QR code be a security risk?
Yes, QR codes can pose security risks if they are maliciously created or used. Scammers can create QR codes that, when scanned, redirect users to phishing websites or download malware onto their devices. It's important to exercise caution when scanning QR codes from unknown or suspicious sources and ensure you have up-to-date antivirus software installed on your device to mitigate potential risks.
What personal information can be accessed through a QR code?
The personal information that can be accessed through a QR code depends on how it is programmed. QR codes can contain various types of data, including website links, contact details, email addresses, or even sensitive information like payment details. It's important to be mindful of the information requested or accessed when scanning QR codes, especially from unfamiliar sources.
How can I protect my privacy while using QR codes?
To protect your privacy when using QR codes, follow these guidelines: Scan codes from trusted sources, avoid scanning codes from unknown or suspicious sources, be cautious of QR codes in public places, use a QR code scanner from a reputable app store, regularly update your device's operating system and security software, and review the permissions requested by QR code scanner apps to ensure they align with your privacy preferences.
Can QR codes track my location?
QR codes themselves cannot track your location. However, if a QR code is used in conjunction with a mobile app or website that requests location permissions, it may be able to gather location data. Be aware of the permissions requested by the app or website associated with the QR code and consider whether sharing your location is necessary or aligns with your privacy preferences.
Can QR codes be used to steal sensitive information from my device?
While QR codes can be used as a vector for stealing sensitive information, it is relatively rare. However, it's important to remain cautious and vigilant. To protect your device, ensure you have a trustworthy QR code scanner app installed from a reputable source. Additionally, avoid scanning QR codes from unknown or untrusted sources, especially if they prompt you to download files or enter personal information. Regularly update your device's operating system and security software to stay protected against potential vulnerabilities.