Is QR code still alive?

What is QR code?

A QR code, which stands for “quick response”, is a code or a barcode on steroids. When an individual scans or takes a photo of a QR code, it will prompt the user to visit a link (that is associated with the QR code). This link is typically a website where the user can find the information that is needed, or sign up for an event, etc. QR codes can be created easily with commercial software including QR code monkey, and the QR code generator, among other available legitimate sources. 

QR codes are characterized by a two-dimensional pattern of black and white dots. This pattern enables people to embed 200 times more information than a standard barcode.

QR codes can include URLs, phone numbers, or up to 4000 characters of text. There are several things a QR code can be used and these include sending and receiving payment information, authenticating online accounts and login details, and a link to an app store (e.g., Apple Store or Google Play).

Hubspot has a blog that lists the steps in creating QR codes. QR codes are a convenient way for marketers to spread awareness about their website or to ask consumers to sign up for something.  However, there have been concerns over the security of QR codes. 

Origin of QR Codes

QR code was developed by Japanese company known as Denso Wave (a Toyota subsidiary). The purpose of creating the QR code was to create a more accurate way to track vehicles and parts during the manufacturing process.  

QR codes are very prevalent in Japan these days. Companies are increasingly turning to QR codes to access information, and more recently to pay for goods and services. QR codes can be found on subway doors, LINE apps, commercial ad banners and many more. 

Security Concerns of QR codes

According to Kaspersky, QR codes are vulnerable to attackers as malicious URLs containing custom malware can be embedded into the QR code. It is also possible to embed a malicious URL into a QR code that directs to a phishing site, where unsuspecting users could disclose personal or financial information. 

Since humans are not able to read the QR codes, it is easy for attackers to alter a QR to point users to a site without being detected. While many people are aware that QR codes can open a URL, there are other actions that a QR code can initiate on a user’s device. 

Attackers could disguise malicious QR codes with legitimate QR codes. Users who are not aware of the malicious link could be led to a page that results in compromising the device or a spoofed login page to steal user credentials. 

QR code and Data

QR codes that are generated by QR generator do not collect personally identifiable information. The data it collects is limited to the users’ location, the number of times the code has been scanned, the time it was scanned, and the operating system of the smartphone used (e.g., Andriod).

How to Read a QR code

QR codes are fairly easy to “read”. QR codes are typically for smartphones or tablets. 

1) Open up the camera app

2) Hover over the QR code with your camera app turned on

3) A pop-up link will be displayed. 

By clicking on this link, it will take you to the destination of the URL. However, please be careful clicking any links. Don’t click the link unless you are certain that the website is a secured website. 

Tips on to Avoid QR code Scams

Every technology invention has the intention to serve the community well. However, there are always people who abuse the convenience of such an innovation. There are several tips to make sure that you don’t become a victim of a QR code scam:

1. Do not open any links from strangers. Always be skeptical about the links. Unless it is directly from a person that you know, don’t access the link. 

2. If it is for a payment method.  Try an alternative payment method that you feel more comfortable with. Website online bill pay is less susceptible to fraud because mobile devices are generally less secured. 

3. Contact the person who sends you the QR code. When in doubt, always ask. Sometimes we receive scam texts or people who disguise to be our friends or family. Contact those people first and make sure they did send you the text message with the QR code. 

4. Strange-looking QR codes. According to McAfee, if you see any sign of altering or placement that looks slapdash or strange looking, do not scan the code. 

5. Lastly, install mobile security. Just like our laptops and desktops, it is always a good idea to install online protection for your mobile devices

That's it!

Sounds scary? It shouldn’t be. When you are an informed user, you will be more confident in accessing any type of URL and link. Remember, when in doubt, double-check the source. Sometimes, convenience is not always good. There are always two sides to a coin, some people will make things better for others, and some people will do the opposite. 

Want to learn more about digital marketing? Check out my blogs on SEO!

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