QR Codes have become a well-known technology today. This is all due to the increase in smartphone penetration and access to high-speed internet. From pharmaceuticals to restaurants, they are being used everywhere.
In fact, ever since the pandemic has hit the world, their adoption has skyrocketed. Why? Because they offer a truly contactless experience in a hassle-free way.
So you’re planning to use QR Codes. But you are concerned about whether they are safe to use or not.
Recently, incidences involving the use of QR Codes for unethical purposes have come into existence. And since not a lot of information is available QR Code safety, you have safety concerns in your mind.
Hence, you’re looking for a checklist of some common QR Code risks and their solutions. This way, you can stay informed and ensure that you and your audience don’t fall prey to them.
We have compiled an exhaustive list of common QR Code risks that you must beware of:
A. The most common risks associated with QR Codes
1. Malware attacks
Cybercriminals can exploit QR Codes to inject malware into your phone.
To do it, they encode malicious URLs into the QR Codes. And anyone who scans it will get affected. Most often these QR Codes are the random ones that are displayed publicly for no reason in particular.
Although the problem is complex, the solution is pretty simple. First, make sure you don’t scan any random QR Code displayed in public or shared with you over WhatsApp, email, etc.
Second, always check the credibility of the sender before you pull out your phone to scan the QR Code. If you can’t, don’t scan it.
For example, in Austin, Texas, the enforcement officers discovered fraudulent QR Codes on stickers affixed to dozen pay stations across the city.
People who scanned these QR Codes in hopes of paying for parking, were directed to a fraudulent website. Here, they submitted their financial details with payment to the fraudulent vendor.
Here, customers actively verifying the account name with the parking vendor (or authority) could’ve prevented the problem.
On the other hand, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Burger King used QR Codes in TV advertisements. These ads featured a floating QR Code. If a viewer could scan the QR Code, she’d get a free Whopper on the next purchase on the Burger King app.
In such brand promotions, you can be sure of QR Code’s credibility as this ad is coming on TV or official social media handles.
2. Phishing Attacks
QR Codes have also been used in phishing attacks. In these attacks, the cybercriminals first replace a genuine QR Code with a QR Code having a phishing URL.
As users scan it, they will be taken to a phishing site. Here, they are prompted to reveal login credentials. The attackers try exploiting these credentials for unauthorized access to your accounts, see private information, and other damages.
Moreover, these phishing websites are very identical to legitimate websites. Hence, it makes them harder for the general public to detect.
The solution is to double-check the credibility of the source. To do it, you can check whether the web link you see after scanning the QR Code is of a reliable source or is known to you. If it isn’t from either one, don’t follow through with it.
Moreover, look out for any sign of forgery or replacement that looks questionable. If there are, don’t scan that QR Code.
3. Financial theft
Cybercriminals have taken advantage of QR Codes’ payment method.
You might have seen them at restaurants or stores being used for payment. To take advantage, fraudsters replace genuine QR Codes with their own QR Codes. This redirects the money to their account rather than the real stakeholders.
The solution is to double-check by contacting the person directly before you transfer the money. Or you can also do a trial by sending a very small amount of money. It will make sure you are sending the money to the right person.
4. Clickjacking via QR Codes
Various QR Codes lead users to a mobile-optimized landing page having actionable content such as buttons. And cybercriminals take advantage of these buttons by linking them to malware.
Once the user clicks through this button, it will download malware onto his device.
The solution is pretty simple. You need to check the credibility of the sender and the QR Code. If you can’t, don’t click through it.
That’s all you need to know about QR Code risks. In case you’re planning to use QR Codes for one of your campaigns, see: