You’ve seen barcodes all your life. So you know what they look like: rectangles “boxes” comprised of a series of vertical lines. When a cashier scans a barcode, you hear a familiar beep and you are charged for that item.
A QR code looks different and offers more functionality. QR stands for “quick response.” Smartphones can download QR readers that use the phone’s built-in camera to read these codes. When the QR code reader application is open and the camera detects a QR code, the application beeps and asks you what you want to do next.
Today we see QR codes appearing in magazine advertisements and articles, on signs and billboards; anywhere a mobile marketer wants to allow information to be captured, whether in print or in public spaces, and facilitate digital interaction. Pretty much anyone can create a QR codes.
QR code infections are relatively new. A QR scam works because, as with a shortened URL, the link destination is obscured by the link itself. Once scanned, a QR code may link to an malicious website or download an unwanted application or mobile virus.
Here’s some ways to protect yourself from falling victim to malicious QR codes:
- Be suspicious of QR codes that offer no context explaining them. Malicious codes often appear with little or no text.
- If you arrive on a website via a QR code, never provide your personal or log in information since it could be a phishing attempt.
- Use a QR reader that offers you a preview of the URL that you have scanned so that you can see if it looks suspicious before you go there.
- Use complete mobile device security software, like McAfee® Mobile Security, which includes anti-virus, anti-theft and web and app protection and can warn you of dangerous websites embedded in QR codes.