I have been seeing more and more of these strange little squares with a variety of patterns in them otherwise known as QR codes. After getting my iPhone several years ago, I came across a bar code scanner from AT&T that snapped a picture of the code and took you to the website that the graphic mentioned. Didnt think much about them until I listened to a podcast “Security Now” by Steve Gibson and Leo LaPorte. That got me to thinking that while the QR codes could be a good thing there was also a lot of mischief that could accompany them.
Using the feature available on the redlaser.com website, I generated the QR code you see at the left. If you scan this with one of the available code scanners, you should get taken to this website. Herein lies the problem. You probably wont know until it is too late that you are being taken somewhere other than where you were expected. On of the advantages that you will get from using of the QR scanners is that you will get some warning of where you are going before you are actually taken there.
The QR code beside this text will display a sample email address. This could be used to automatically start an email to the contact for an ad that you are looking at and would like more information on. These are just two examples of the different types of QR codes that can be generated. As you work with the Redlaser website (http://redlaser.com/application/qr-codes/), you will see what the different types of QR codes look like.
This is the first QR scanner that I came across. It was one of several that was mentioned on the podcast that I mentioned at the beginning of this post. Search iTunes for RedLaser and you will be able to download the app which is one of the ones I used here to look at the information contained in the QR codes. This is one website that you will want to visit as it contains a lot of good information on how QR codes are being used and who are some of the companies that are currently using them.
The QR scanner from Norton, known as Norton Snap, is another one that you should get installed on your Smartphone. It also scans QR codes but adds a feature in that it will tell you if the site the code is trying to send you to is safe or not. It also identifies the email type QR code but unlike the RedLaser QR scanner, it doesnt show you the email address without opening the email app on your smartphone. Here is a link to the Wiki article that will give you more information on QR codes.
I am not saying that QR codes are either bad or good. One thing that should make you suspect of a code not being what it says it is is if it is a label placed over an existing label. Another area that should make anyone suspect of a QR code being valid or not is finding one on a bathroom wall or similar area. This is one area that we should all do additional reading on.