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Is a QR Code safe? We break it down for you.

What to avoid, and how to use the QR code safely

We’ve all seen or used QR codes. They were first popular in the 1990s seen as an upgrade to bar codes. QR (which stands for “Quick Response”) saw a resurgence in popularity during the pandemic when people and businesses went to great lengths to avoid or minimize contact. Unlike a barcode, which holds information horizontally, the QR code stores both vertically and horizontally, meaning it can hold significantly more information.

The QR code is designed for scanning by a camera. Most of us use the camera on a smartphone. QR codes store web links but can also store text and images. The QR reader on the phone deciphers the code, and shows the URL. From there, it’s a simple tap to have your smartphone’s browser open the webpage.

It’s quick. It’s convenient. It enables people to access a website by a point and click. But in this day and age where there is so much worry about hacking and cyber crime, you might be tempted to ask “Is the QR code safe?”

The answer is a qualified “Yes, but…”Use the same precautions with QR codes that you would emails or links that come across your email or browser. There are scammers who will create QR codes for nefarious purposes. You might see a lone QR code on a piece of paper taped to a telephone pole, or on a bulletin board at a bus station, for example. Those are QR codes you should avoid.

Also beware of QR codes in an email from someone you don’t recognize, or in what you think may be a “pfishing” scam. If the email is potentially unsafe, it’s a good bet that the QR code is unsafe also. And don’t’ be lulled into downloading QR scanner apps for your phone. Some may be legitimate but it’s the perfect Trojan Horse for a scammer to plant malware. Use your smartphone camera instead.

“Trust but verify” is a saying that one of our US presidents used in negotiating treaties with other countries. The advice applies equally well here. If you open a link in a QR code, be certain that the URL is safe and comes from a trusted source. Scammers are more clever than ever today and can often include a familiar looking logo which may make the code or website look legitimate when it is not.

With all that having been said, there are many benefits to using QR codes. But another word of caution – and this time it is not about a danger to your phone’s or email’s infrastructure. Keep in mind that as a QR code opens to a website, each company whose website you access may have different policies about sharing your contact information. Unless you take the time to read the privacy policy of every business with a QR code that you access, you run the risk that your information may be shared with other vendors. So, if you accessed an auto dealership’s website looking for a new car don’t be surprised if you get correspondence from auto detailing companies or even financial institutions. Or if you used a QR code to see a restaurant’s menu you may find yourself receiving correspondence from a nearby tavern or food store. How companies share contact information varies widely. So, short of reading the privacy policy of every retailer or business with a QR code that you access, assume you may receive some unsolicited information unless the company specifically has a policy of not sharing information. There are a few ways you can protect yourself and minimize the unsought solicitations if you want to. First, turn on your “private browsing mode” feature. And where possible use a browser which is good about having anti-tracking features. Safari and Firefox are two which are good in this way.

Here at Pulse Technology we are fans of QR codes because of the ease and convenience it provides for our customers – whether that is shopping at our online store, or checking out a new piece of technology or any number of other reasons. We encourage you to use our QR codes with full confidence. We do not share customer information with anyone. Ever. If you have any question on this matter please reach out to the marketing contact directly at marketing@pulsetechnology.com

If you have questions about the technology or anything related to it, please get in touch with us  

Topics: News, Technology, Security, Cybersecurity, COVID-19, Artificial Intelligence

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