QR Code Security: What are QR codes and are they safe to use?

Definition and meaning of QR codes

I abbreviate QR as “Quick Response.”

Despite their straightforward appearance, QR codes may hold a large amount of information. However, regardless of its contents, a scanned QR code ought to provide fast access to information for the user; this is why it is known as a Quick Response code.

What do QR codes mean?

A QR code is a kind of barcode that is easy to read by digital devices and holds data in the form of a grid of square-shaped pixels. Due to the fact that many smartphones come equipped with built-in QR scanners, QR codes are widely utilized in marketing and advertising efforts in addition to being used to monitor product information in supply chains. They have been crucial in slowing the virus’s transmission and tracing coronavirus exposure in more recent times.

Toyota’s subsidiary Denso Wave, a Japanese business, created the first QR code technology in 1994. They need a more precise method of tracking cars and parts while they were being manufactured. They created a kind of barcode that could encode alphanumeric, kanji, and kana characters in order to do this.

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Conventional barcodes can only be read from top to bottom. This implies that they have limited capacity to hold data, often in the form of alphanumeric characters. However, a QR code may be read from right to left as well as from top to bottom. As a result, it can store a lot more data.

Phone numbers, internet URLs, and text messages up to 4,000 characters long may all be saved in a QR code. Moreover, QR codes may be used for:

Provide a direct download link for an app from Google Play or the Apple App Store.

Verify login credentials and authenticate online accounts.

By keeping your password, SSID, and encryption type secure, you may gain access to Wi-Fi networks.

Transmit and receive payment details.

And much more; a UK business named QR Memories even makes QR codes that can be scanned on gravestones to learn more about the lives of the departed (if there is an internet obituary or news article about them).

In order to save personnel time while scanning the code at the proper angle, the QR code’s development team made sure it was simple to read. In order to facilitate identification, they also wanted it to have a unique design. This is what made them decide on the recognizable square form that is still in use today.

Denso Wave announced that they will not be pursuing their patent rights and released their QR code freely accessible. This implied that QR codes were accessible to anyone.

Though adoption of the concept was sluggish at initially, the first mobile phones with integrated QR scanners were released in Japan in 2002. The number of businesses utilizing QR codes has increased as a result of smartphone adoption.

Denso Wave kept refining their initial design in 2020. They have added anti-forgery, traceability, and trademark protection to their new QR codes. The QR code has a plethora of new applications, ranging from cash transfers to augmented reality object position detection.

How can I read a QR code?

QR scanners, which are occasionally integrated with cameras, are found in the majority of smartphones. All you need to do is use a QR scanner to scan QR codes.

Some tablets, including the iPad from Apple, include built-in QR scanners in their cameras.

Certain apps might be needed by some older devices in order to scan QR codes; these apps can be easily found on Google Play and the Apple App Store.

Using your smartphone to scan a QR code is simple:

On your smartphone, launch the camera or the QR reader app.

position it at the QR code; you should be able to view the required information regardless of where you position your camera.

The information will appear on the screen right away. For example, your phone should download the contact details from the QR code right away.

Are QR codes secure?

Attackers have the ability to insert dangerous URLs with unique malware inside QR codes, which, when scanned, might steal data from a mobile device. A malicious URL that points to a phishing website, where unwary visitors could divulge personal or financial information, can likewise be included inside a QR code.

Because QR codes are unreadable by humans, attackers may easily change a code to go to a different resource without being noticed. Although a lot of people know that QR codes may access a URL, not everyone is aware of the additional things that these codes can do when they scan a user’s device. These steps can involve creating emails or adding contacts in addition to opening a webpage. Threats to QR code security can be particularly serious because of this element of surprise.

A common attack is disguising harmful QR codes as valid ones and posting them in public. When unsuspecting consumers scan the code, they are sent to a malicious website that may include an exploit kit, which might corrupt their device or create a fake login page that could be used to steal user credentials. Certain websites allow dangerous software to be downloaded just by browsing them, a practice known as drive-by downloads.

Generally speaking, mobile devices are less secure than laptops or PCs. The usage of QR codes on mobile devices raises the possible threats.