QR codes are gaining popularity in today’s smartphone-centric environment. QR codes aren’t simply for tracking factory inventories anymore. Marketing, real estate, digital business cards, and smart packaging use them. Along with the rise in corporate and user QR use, privacy and security concerns are developing. Attackers utilize the technology to implant malware or obtain personal and financial data. QR codes: safe? They’re dangerous? The long and short of implementing or reading QR codes for your business: QR codes are a secure technique. Details matter. Let’s talk QR code security.
QR codes explained
QR codes are black-and-white squares with encoded data. They include more information and data formats than bar codes. Masahiro Hara of Denso Wave, who created QR technology, wanted it to be quickly scanned. So QR means “Quick Response.”
After over 25 years in the automotive supply industry, QR codes have spread to other industries and business functions.
They allow businesses to attach digital content to physical touchpoints, bringing offline audiences online. With the option to generate bespoke QR codes, brands can engage customers in new ways.
Adoption of QR Codes
QR codes gained popularity in the years before COVID’s touchless world. How come? Smartphones no longer need third-party apps to scan QR codes. Users could whip out their iPhones, run the native camera software, point to the code, and presto!
Pandemic fueled its revival. COVID’s contactless standards meant restaurants, which relied on diners, had to avoid contact whenever possible. QR code menus are the contactless version of paper menu cards.
No-contact COVID techniques lead to additional use cases over time. CPG packaging, inventory tracking, digital business cards, and more employ QR codes.
Hackers, crooks, and internet scammers are using QR codes more. Should this warrant concern you if you scan a QR code or use one in marketing? Dig deeper.
QR codes: safe?
QR codes are intrinsically secure. They merely link people to their smartphone camera apps or standalone QR code scanners. This data can be a URL, PDF file, landing page, questionnaire, video, or audio. There are countless uses.
Isn’t it like physically typing a website address or clicking a link to a landing page, quiz, or video? Yup. In this example, the QR code scan types and clicks URLs.
A QR code connects consumers from a physical touchpoint to a digital destination. The user does nothing. Simply point your camera at the code.
QR codes are a physical-digital medium, thus they can’t pose a security problem until users join the digital world. This is like browsing the web on your phone, tablet, or computer – nothing more.
Since they’re frequently used as a digital portal in the actual world, attackers develop new ways to hijack your smartphone or use social engineering to access your private information.
QR code security is a physical-to-digital gateway for both users and companies.
QR codes don’t live-track
It’s crucial to understand how QR code tracking works and how businesses might gain from gathering data.
Here’s an outline. QR codes only collect data when scanned. All information a QR code solution provider can collect. This covers total scans, unique scans, timestamps, device OS, etc.
“QR code tracking” is a data snapshot taken at the QR code’s touchpoint.
This disproves the idea that QR codes harm privacy and security. Miscommunication! Scanning a QR code doesn’t activate a phone’s live tracker. QR code generators can’t get your PII or track your live position or other activity.
QR codes gather first-party data.
Deploying QR codes with a solution that offers strong backend tracking analytics lets you establish a first-party data warehouse.
First-party data obtained directly from brand-user interactions can expedite your marketing activities and improve your business intelligence.
As Apple and Google prioritize user privacy and security, businesses must embrace innovative channels like QR codes to engage their core consumers.
Safari, Firefox, and Brave don’t support third-party cookies, and Chrome is next.
QR codes offer a frictionless solution to create leads and acquire first-party user data in a privacy-focused tech climate. Businesses profit from self-selection in QR code scanners, meaning they collect data on high-intent users who are more likely to buy.
Why? When someone uses their smartphone to scan your codes and interact with your digital material, they have high intent.
QR code security risks?
Let’s talk QR code security now that we’ve reviewed how they function and the data companies can collect.
QR codes don’t constitute a data security issue, but its digital target does.
Scammers and hackers use QR codes in several ways.
- Clicking a malicious link or scanning a malicious QR code leads to the same link. Scammers link QR codes with questionable frame language like “scan to obtain X” to lure consumers into scanning. They can also set a harmful code in high-traffic places without text.
- Malicious QR codes in public: Cybercriminals replace authentic QR codes at touchpoints with counterfeit ones. Users that scan such a code are sent to a phishing site or malware assault.
- QR codes can also be used in emails as part of a social engineering assault, as they are more likely to bypass email protection. Users must enter their credentials after scanning their codes.
- Fraudsters can use QR codes to steal money. They can accept QR codes as payment but send your money to the wrong account or take more than needed.
- Clickjacking with QR codes: Direct people who scan a QR code to a legitimate-looking website with clickable buttons. They frequently download malware or invade your privacy.
Why is QR code security important?
To keep safe, scan a safe QR code. When scanning a QR code, there are a few things to watch for. These prevent hacks, fraud, and cyberattacks.
Ensure your audience’s digital security, but also make sure they can scan your codes. Finally, you need numerous individuals to scan your QR codes. This is only possible if your audience trusts the code they’re about to scan.
Best QR code security
QR code security issues might turn off users or leave them vulnerable. Let’s examine QR code security recommended practices for users and businesses.
Best practices for QR code scanning:
- Find questionable code. Exist questionable code frames? Does the logo look valid in code? Is the code design brand-compliant? Before scanning the QR code, consider these questions.
- Avoid third-party QR code scanners. All smartphones have QR code scanning built into the camera app.
- URL-check. After scanning a QR code using your smartphone’s camera app, a pop-up notification appears. The confirmation message displays the URL. Check the URL for malicious indications and only click if it’s SSL certified (https://) and encrypted.
Increasing scan and conversion rates by reassuring your audience about QR code security. Here are some recommendations.
- Personalized QR codes
Use consistent QR code templates and incorporate your identity into the design. Adding brand-appropriate colors, gradients, logos, and borders. Ensure the QR code’s landing page reflects your brand.
If possible, include your trademark or domain in the code. Online QR code generators create static QR codes that link to your domain. Too often, QR codes include URLs with lots of alphanumeric characters, which turns off users who would be interested in your digital content.
- Website SSL certification
Ensure the QR code’s website is SSL-secured. SSL certificates reassure users that their data is secure and prevent attackers from establishing bogus websites. Users will notice “http://” as a warning. Browsers label non-SSL sites as “not secure.”
- Purchase a QR code generator
Your QR code generator should be GDPR- and data-privacy-compliant. Your GDPR-compliant QR code partner should protect your data.
A safe QR code generator always encrypts data to protect personal information and confidentiality.
- Use QR passwords
If sensitive material is shared through QR code, only a select group should have access to the encrypted content. Password gating permits this, especially when transmitting private information like bank statements and IDs.
- Certified QR code provider
Your QR code provider should be SOC-2 certified. The AICPA established SOC 2 to analyze firms’ secure data handling. Sharing this with your consumers will boost the security of your scanned QR code.
- SSO-enabled QR generator
Your QR code generator should include SSO login. As a firm wishing to engage customers with QR codes, you may create and change them at scale. Only those with authorisation to use the code management platform can use it with SSO.
As QR code use grows, so does the demand for enhanced security
QR codes are no more harmful than a web browser or smartphone app. Cybercriminals can use QR codes as an offline-to-online route.
Users and businesses must adopt QR code security best practices. Users must determine a QR code’s security and legitimacy. Businesses must communicate the validity of their codes to increase scans, clicks, and conversions.