What’s hidden behind that mysterious mosaic-like ornament?
What is a QR code? It’s a handy invention that can transfer any information encoded in a matrix of squares of different sizes. This can be either text information or hyperlinks. This system was designed specifically for smartphones equipped with a camera for easier data input. And indeed, it is much easier to scan the information you need rather than try to enter it without errors using the virtual keyboard on a small touch screen.
Most programs not only decode this matrix but also automatically process it by, for example, following the necessary link.
But maybe that’s where we should stop and think? Is it really a good thing to have a program carrying out all these operations for you without asking your permission?
So this is where we should start from. First of all, do not allow the program to automatically launch a script after a successful QR-code scan. Don’t permit your smartphone to take any independent action; keep it under your control! Disable this feature in the settings wherever possible. This needs to be taken into consideration when choosing a suitable scanner program. If possible, try to bypass any program that trumpets its ability to automatically download files or open necessary pages. The best choice is the program that allows you to control all its operations.
The next step should be a careful study of the link. Usually after decryption, scanners can display the full text of the link on the screen. Do not overlook this. Carefully study the link. Sometimes it leads to a fake site with just one letter deliberately changed in its name. And just one click separates you from that fake site, which could bring a malicious infection or the theft of valuable data. This is the main threat posed by QR codes – the inability to read the text without pre-scanning it.
Can antivirus protection help? Well, Kaspersky Internet Security – Multi-Device protects against most of these threats and simply will not allow access to a hacked site where a malicious worm could lie in wait for a smartphone user.
However, the Internet is infinite, so it is impossible to know about all the threats out there in cyber space. One of the best tactics is not to trust unknown resources. If you are not sure about the reliability of a site or the QR code it displays, do not scan a matrix you don’t trust. Overconfidence can end in disaster.
QR- codes located in public places (for example, on monuments or other public attractions or on posters) are worthy of special attention. It’s better to scan QR codes printed on official posters. They should also contain additional information, and often a text web link, with the code available as a convenience.
A code painted on a wall or the pavement, or printed on a bit of paper and taped to a lamppost cannot be trusted. Curiosity will likely lead to more trouble than it’s worth.
For all the potential pitfalls, there’s no need to abandon QR codes – they can be a valuable technology. But users need to take sensible precautions and not just scan at will.