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

QR code definition and meaning

QR stands for “ Quick Response. ”
While they may look simple, QR codes are adequate to of storing lots of data. But no matter how a lot they contain, when scanned, the QR code should allow the user to access information immediately – hence why it ’ south called a Quick Response code .

What are QR codes?

A QR code is a type of barcode that can be read well by a digital device and which stores information as a series of pixels in a square-shaped grid. QR codes are frequently used to track information about products in a add range and – because many smartphones have built-in QR readers – they are often used in marketing and advertise campaigns. More recently, they have played a key role in helping to trace coronavirus exposure and slow the spread of the virus .
Check out this video recording on YouTube how to recognize malicious QR codes and protect yourself :

The first QR code system was invented in 1994 by the japanese company Denso Wave, a Toyota subordinate. They needed a more accurate way to track vehicles and parts during the fabricate process. To achieve this, they developed a type of barcode that could encode kanji, kana, and alphanumeric characters .
Standard barcodes can entirely be read in one direction – top to bottom. That means they can entirely store a small sum of data, normally in an alphanumeric format. But a QR code is read in two directions – top to bottom and right to left. This allows it to firm importantly more data .
The data stored in a QR code can include web site URLs, phone numbers, or up to 4,000 characters of text. QR codes can besides be used to :

  • Link directly to download an app on the Apple App Store or Google Play.
  • Authenticate online accounts and verify login details.
  • Access Wi-Fi by storing encryption details such as SSID, password, and encryption type.
  • Send and receive payment information.
  • And much more – a company in the UK called QR Memories even creates QR codes for use on gravestones, allowing people to scan the code to read more about that deceased person’s life (if they have an obituary or news story relating to them online).

The development team behind the QR code wanted to make the code easy to scan thus that operatives did not waste time getting it at the right angle. They besides wanted it to have a distinctive design to make it easy to identify. This led them to choose the iconic square condition that is still used today .
Denso Wave made their QR code publicly available and declared they would not exercise their patent rights. This entail anyone could make and use QR codes .
initial consumption of the theme was dull ; however, in 2002, the first mobile phones containing built-in QR readers were marketed in Japan. The habit of smartphones led to an addition in the act of companies using QR codes .
In 2020, Denso Wave continued to improve on their original design. Their raw QR codes include traceability, mark protection, and anti-forgery measures. There are many fresh uses for the QR code, from transferring payments to determining objects ‘ positions within augment world .

How do I scan QR codes?

Most smartphones have built-in QR scanners, which are sometimes built in the camera. A QR scanner is plainly a way to scan QR codes .
Some tablets, such as the Apple iPad, have QR readers built into their cameras .
Some older devices may require a especial app to read QR codes – these apps are promptly available on the Apple App Store and Google Play .
Scanning a QR code using your device is straightforward :

  1. Open the QR reader application or the camera on your smartphone.
  2. Point it at the QR code – you should be able to point your camera from any angle and still receive the necessary information.
  3. The data will be instantly shown on screen – for instance, if the QR code contains contact details, your phone should instantly download these.

Are QR codes safe?

Attackers can embed malicious URLs containing customs malware into a QR code which could then exfiltrate data from a mobile device when scanned. It is besides possible to embed a malicious URL into a QR code that directs to a phishing web site, where unsuspecting users could disclose personal or fiscal data .
Because humans can not read QR codes, it is easy for attackers to alter a QR code to point to an alternate resource without being detected. While many people are aware that QR codes can open a URL, they can be less mindful of the other actions that QR codes can initiate on a exploiter ’ mho device. aside from opening a web site, these actions can include adding contacts or composing emails. This element of surprise can make QR code security threats particularly debatable .
A typical attack involves placing malicious QR codes in populace, sometimes covering up legitimate QR codes. Unsuspecting users who scan the code are taken to a malicious web page which could host an exploit kit, leading to device compromise or a spoof login foliate to steal user credentials. Some websites do drive-by downloads, so just visiting the locate can initiate a malicious software download .
Mobile devices, in general, tend to be less impregnable than computers or laptops. Since QR codes are used on mobile devices, this increases the electric potential risks .

Do QR codes collect my personal information and data?

QR code-generating software does not collect personally identifiable data .
The data it does collect – and which is visible to the code ’ mho creators – includes placement, the number of times the code has been scanned and at what times, plus the operate system of the device which scanned the code ( i.e., iPhone or Android ) .

Can someone hack a QR code?

The QR codes themselves can ’ thymine be hacked – the security system risks associated with QR codes derive from the finish of QR codes rather than the code themselves .
Hackers can create malicious QR codes which send users to fake websites that capture their personal data such as login credentials or tied track their geolocation on their phone .
This is why mobile users should only scan codes that come from a trusted sender.

How do QR codes work?

The patterns within QR codes represent binary star codes that can be interpreted to reveal the code ‘s data .
A QR lector can identify a standard QR code based on the three large squares outside the QR code. Once it has identified these three shapes, it knows that everything contained inside the square is a QR code.

The QR lector then analyzes the QR code by breaking the solid thing down to a power system. It looks at the individual grid squares and assigns each one a measure based on whether it is black or white. It then groups grid squares to create larger patterns .
QR code on mobile

What are the parts of a QR code?

A standard QR code is identifiable based on six components :

  1. Quiet Zone – This is the empty white border around the outside of a QR code. Without this border, a QR reader will not be able to determine what is and is not contained within the QR code (due to interference from outside elements).
  2. Finder pattern – QR codes usually contain three black squares in the bottom left, top left, and top right corners. These squares tell a QR reader that it is looking at a QR code and where the outside boundaries of the code lie.
  3. Alignment pattern – This is another smaller square contained somewhere near the bottom right corner. It ensures that the QR code can be read, even if it is skewed or at an angle.
  4. Timing pattern – This is an L-shaped line that runs between the three squares in the finder pattern. The timing pattern helps the reader identify individual squares within the whole code and makes it possible for a damaged QR code to be read.
  5. Version information – This is a small field of information contained near the top–right finder pattern cell. This identifies which version of the QR code is being read (see “Types of QR code” below).
  6. Data cells – The rest of the QR code communicates the actual information, i.e., the URL, phone number, or message it contains.

how to use QR codes

Do QR codes collect my personal information and data?

QR code-generating software does not collect personally identifiable information .
The data it does collect – and which is visible to the code ’ south creators – includes location, the number of times the code has been scanned and at what times, plus the operating system of the device which scanned the code ( i.e., iPhone or Android ) .

Types of QR code

QR codes can be used for multiple purposes, but there are four wide accept versions of QR codes. The translation used determines how data can be stored and is called the “ input mode. ” It can be either numeric, alphanumeric, binary star, or kanji. The type of mode is communicated via the version information field in the QR code .

  1. Numeric mode – This is for decimal digits 0 through 9. Numeric mode is the most effective storage mode, with up to 7,089 characters available.
  2. Alphanumeric mode – This is for decimal digitals 0 through 9, plus uppercase letters A through Z, and symbols $, %, *, +, –, ., /, and : as well as a space. It allows up to 4,296 characters to be stored.
  3. Byte mode- This is for characters from the ISO–8859–1 character set. It allows 2,953 characters to be stored.
  4. Kanji mode – This is for double–byte characters from the Shift JIS character set and used to encode characters in Japanese. This is the original mode, first developed by Denso Wave. However, it has since become the least effective, with only 1,817 characters available for storage. A second kanji mode called Extended Channel Interpretation (ECI) mode can specify the kanji character set UTF–8. However, some newer QR code readers will not be able to read this character set.

There are two extra modes which are modifications of the other types :

  • Structured Append mode – This encodes data across multiple QR codes, allowing up to 16 QR codes to be read simultaneously.
  • FNC1 mode – This allows a QR code to function as a GS1 barcode.

note : A QR code can use multiple modes, indeed farseeing as each QR code contains the adjust version information field .
paying with QR codes

What are the different styles of QR code?

It is possible to create QR codes in many different shapes and styles, but five types are most normally found. They all do the like subcontract – they precisely look slightly unlike .
1. QR code – This is the original interpretation of the QR code created by Denso Wave in the 1990s. It ‘s easy to identify by its three finder patterns in the bottom–left, top–left, and top–right corners .
2. Aztec code – While it looks similar to a QR code, the Aztec code, developed by Welch Allyn, contains merely one finder radiation pattern, right in the center .
An Aztec code linking to kaspersky.com
3. Maxi code – This character of QR code is used by the United States postal serve. It ‘s like to the Aztec code in that it places the finder practice in the center, but it uses a honeycomb convention rather of squares .
A Maxicode linking to kaspersky.com
4. PDF417 – Invented in 1991 by Ynjiun Wang of Symbol Technologies, the curiously named PDF417 predates the QR code by three years. It looks like a desegregate between a QR code and a barcode and is easily recognizable by its rectangular form .
A PDF417 linking to kaspersky.com
5. Semacode – Developed by a software party of the same identify, the Semacode is a datum matrix that looks a batch like an ordinary QR code but doesn ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate have recognizable finder patterns .
A Semacode linking to kaspersky.com

QR code use examples

QR codes are used in numerous contexts – for case :

QR codes in sales and marketing

Many advertisers use QR codes in their campaigns because it provides a faster and more intuitive way to direct people to websites than by entering URLs manually.

They can besides be used to link directly to product pages online. For exemplify, if you were searching for the accurate dress a mannequin was wearing in a post horse, a QR code could directly take you to the web page where you could purchase it .

QR codes for coronavirus tracing

The coronavirus pandemic has supercharged the use of QR codes. For example, in the UK, visitors to hospitality venues such as bars and restaurants are invited to scan a QR code upon arrival using the NHS Covid-19 tracing app. This is to help trace and stop the spread of the virus. If person tests convinced for Covid-19 at that venue, other visitors to the placement are alerted by an app, thanks to the data accumulated from QR code scans .

QR codes on product packaging

You may besides find QR codes on the box for some of your darling products. These QR codes can reveal data about the product, such as nutritional information or special offers you can use future meter you make a purchase .

QR codes in industry

QR codes were initially invented to help track parts in vehicle manufacture, and they are silent used throughout the manufacture industry. You ‘ll besides find QR codes used by early businesses that need to keep a close center on products and supplies, such as the construction, engineering, and retail industries .

QR codes in postal services

postal services around the world besides use them. Because they can contain a large come of information, they are frequently relied upon to track parcels. For exemplar, global fashion post ASOS have moved wholly to QR codes for tracking refunds .

QR codes in education

QR codes are besides used in schools and colleges to help engage with students. They have appeared everywhere, from the classroom to the library, for tasks such as helping students find the books they are searching for .
QR code use and definition

How can I increase QR code security?

There ’ s no telling where and when you might come across a malicious QR code. That ’ sulfur why it is essential to use a QR Scanner you know you can trust and not download a random one from the app storehouse or on-line .
Kaspersky QR Scanner immediately checks that a scan connect is dependable before submitting any information to you.

The scanner provides QR code authentication and alerts you to potential dangers behind a QR code, such as :

  1. A phishing scam
  2. A forced app download or premium text message scam
  3. Dangerous links

Kaspersky QR Scanner distillery provides everything you need from a QR Scanner, such as adding contacts to your call. It besides creates a log of past scans so that, if necessity, you can trace back to see when and where you may have been compromised .
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