Did you know that QR Codes can represent a cybersecurity risk? 

Yes, those codebar-like squared tags are harmful to your business, when implemented wrong. Although they can be powerful when done correctly (they’re used to distribute a vast number of marketing materials: business cards, posters, flyers, and banners.

This is why many of our clients regularly ask us what a QR code looks like, what they do, and how they work. And that is exactly what we will explain in this guide… Including, the cybersecurity risks that it entails.

 

 

What is a QR Code and Why is it For?

The term QR code stands for Quick Response Code. There are several types of them (PDF417, Semaco, Aztec Code, MaxiCode, and the one and only, QR Code). 

Like any other barcode, this one is nothing more than a way of storing information on a machine-readable optical label, using patterns of black dots and blanks, arranged in a square grid. 

These patterns can be scanned and translated into human-readable information, with the help of an imaging device, such as a camera or a scanner … Although today’s most common way is to use your smartphone’s camera and a specialized application to read QR codes. 

These are the different types of data you can store in them: 

  • Simple Text

  • Geographical Directions
  • Phone Numbers 
  • Email Addresses

  • Web URLs
  • Google Play or App Store sharing links to applications

  • Payments
  • Online Account Authentications

  • Wi-Fi Network Sign-In Connection

How to Create Your Own QR Code?

Something important to focus on is the fact that QR codes can be scanned at the touch of a button by hundreds of millions of people around the world who use a smartphone daily.

This makes them great for marketers and salespeople. 

The easiest and most common way to scan is by using a QR scanning app. Although there are countless QR scanning apps in the Google Play Store, and there are many such tools in the Apple App Store as well as…

These are some apps of several that can help you: 

  1. Kaspersky’s QR Code Reader/Scanner 


  2. QR Droid

And luckily, if you want to create your own, you don’t need to learn any coding language as there are a lot of generators online that you can use. This makes the entire generation process extremely simple. 

One of our favorite QR code generators is GOQR.me.

GOQR ME

There are many other QR code generators online. When you search for it in any search engine, you will come across millions of results. 

Many people don’t realize this, but you’re not really forced to use a boring black and white QR code image. You can add colors, graphics, and more to create a truly unique design. 

But the more attractive the offer, the more demand there will be… And cybercriminals love this level of attention.

 

TOP 10 QR Code Security Risks 

Anyone would expect that since its use is primarily to provide the user with small bits of information in a convenient way, no one would be interested in altering them or making them malicious?

But in reality, the fact that they’re so trusted and misunderstood is what makes them so dangerous. And this was clearly highlighted on MobileIron’s Survey of QR Code Consumer Sentiment.

Thanks to the answers of 2,100 consumers across the US and UK, we learned that 71% of respondents don’t distinguish between a legitimate and malicious QR code.

Inspired by the same research, they show us ten ways a seemingly innocent QR code can hack your mobile device after a quick scan. 

  1. Add a Contact Listing – It could trigger an exploit on your device if the listing contains malicious information.
  2. Reveal your Location – It can share your geolocation to an app.
  3. Initiate a Phone Call – Exposing your caller ID information to a criminal.
  4. Open a Website – Predefined URLs can translate into undesirable content.
  5. Text Someone – Hitting “send” by accident can represent an easy exploit.
  6. Create a Calendar Event – It leads to a vulnerability that exposes your calendar.
  7. Write an Email – To send an email draft is enough to become a phishing victim.
  8. Follow Social Media Accounts – Your personal information can be leaked easily.
  9. Make a Payment – Your personal bank account credentials can be stolen this way.
  10. Add a Wi-Fi Network – Getting into a compromised network would let criminals in.
MobileIron Infographic 10 ways to get hacked through QR code

Without a doubt, QR Codes make life easier… Yet pose significant security risks.

How can we all avoid them? With the following security solutions!

 

Solutions to QR Code Cybersecurity Risks 

Try to take these precautions when scanning QR codes to protect your privacy and security from outside sources trying to access your personal data for their own purposes. 

  • Be careful with QR code labels. Sometimes a cybercriminal places them on legitimate ones. 
  • Pay attention when you scan a QR code. There is an intermediate step between scanning the code and starting the browser, when you can see that it will not be what you expected, being able to abort the action. 
  • Some QR code readers allow you to see the URL in the code before entering the destination. It won’t always work though, as the codes use shortened URLs. 
  • Educate your friends or family on this topic. Especially if they borrow your mobile device regularly.

 

Remember, you don’t have to do it all alone.

QR Codes are just a fraction of a bigger problem. If you’re afraid of losing everything (personal and business assets) thanks to cyberattacks… Then you’re in the right place.

Our Texas-based team of IT experts will get recover back your peace of mind