QR codes can be a fun and easy way to get new information, store coupons, or learn of great websites.  I mean, who can resist scanning a QR code?  I know I can’t.  However, as with anything good someone has to find a way to ruin it for the rest of us.  Enter the cyber criminals and the new trend of people placing QR codes that lead to malware sites.  Hyphenet contributor, Marquisa Kirkland cites an example where the QR code led users to a malware site that sent text messages from the user’s phone that cost the user $6 a piece.

So how can you take advantage of the QR codes without opening yourself up to malware?

1) Know where you’re going — Choose a QR code reader that allows you to preview the URL that sits behind the QR code before you go to it.  If the link appears suspicious then don’t go to it, just hit Cancel.

  • Unfurlr –  for both iOS and Android devices.  This app displays the full URL of the site behind the code and gives you a rating on trustworthiness, reliability, privacy and child safety.
  • Norton Snap –  for iOS.  This app, brought to you by Norton Antivirus, also shows you the URL in advance and flags the site as Safe or Unsafe or Unsure.

Both of these apps should help you be a safer consumer of QR codes.

2) Inspect the QR code to make sure it’s not a sticker:  If you are looking at a sign or poster with a QR code make sure that a sticker hasn’t been placed over the original QR code.  Malicious QR code stickers are occasionally pasted over a legit QR code on signs and posters from trusted sources.  If you see a sticker it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s malicious, just be more cautious and use one of the apps above.

3) Don’t auto download apps: If you are scanning for an app don’t download it from the QR code.  Get the name of the app and download it directly through a reliable store (iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, etc.)

It’s important to note that this is a new phenomenon and not a rampent problem.  But with all things internet, it’s better to be cautious.  Follow these tips and enjoy QR codes.  They really are fun.

Resources:

Norton Snap – https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/norton-snap-qr-code-reader/id471928808?mt=8

Unfurlr – http://unfurlr.com/

How to Protect Yourself from Malicious QR Codes (Hyphenet)

http://www.hyphenet.com/blog/2012/01/11/protect-yourself-from-malicious-qr-codes/

How to Protect Yourself from Malious QR codes (Netsecurity)

http://netsecurity.about.com/od/securityadvisorie1/a/How-To-Protect-Yourself-From-Malicious-QR-Codes.htm