From instant online payments to secure authentication, various industries have widely adopted QR codes. Most companies and online businesses, especially payment gateways, use Quick Response codes to conduct smooth and faster transactions. But what about code tampering? In 2022, the FBI warned users about the misuse of QR codes directing users to malicious sites. So, what seems like a robust technology may not be as good as it technically sounds. With that said, let’s head to the pros and cons of QR codes.
Quick response codes were first developed in the mid-90s by Toyota subsidiary Denso Wave to create a more efficient way to track automotive parts during production. The initial code could only encode up to seven digits and had an error correction rate of about 7%. This low error correction rate made it difficult for QR codes to be used in scenarios that required higher accuracy, such as tracking inventory or payments.
Over the years, QR codes have become increasingly popular due to their ease of use, high information density, and capacity for data storage. The error correction feature has also been improved upon over time; modern QR codes can now hold thousands of characters with up to 30% error correction. As technology advances and smartphones become ubiquitous, QR codes have found various applications in industries such as retail and health care.
QR codes are now commonplace in everyday life; from ordering food to reading reviews on products to unlocking your front door, the possibilities for use are virtually endless. The widespread adoption of these codes has revolutionized how businesses interact with customers and has enabled people to access information quickly and conveniently.
A QR code comprises several components, including a small black-and-white patterned square grid of dots that a smartphone or other device can scan. Inside the square are three larger squares that form an "L" shape. These squares contain positioning information which indicates how to read the data stored in the code.
The remaining dots comprise the data encoded in the QR code, ranging from plain text, URLs, contact information, or even more complex types of data such as images and audio files. The number of dots in a QR code increases as more data is added; this allows it to store greater amounts of information than regular barcodes.
A QR code is scanned using an optical reader, such as a smartphone camera. Once the code has been read, the information stored in the code is decoded and displayed on the device’s screen. For this process to work, both the scanner and the device must be capable of recognizing QR codes.
Many modern smartphones can read QR codes without additional software or applications; however, some devices may require a specialized app to be installed before scanning codes successfully.
Special scanning equipment can also be used to scan large quantities of codes at once. By analyzing the encoded data, scanners can quickly identify specific products and track their movement through various stages of production.
The revolutionary technology has brought many advantages. Here are the most prominent ones:
QR codes are very user-friendly and can be scanned with any smartphone, removing the need for specialized scanning devices. All the user needs is a camera-enabled device and access to an application that can read this code.
As mentioned earlier, QR codes can store more information than traditional barcodes, with up to 4,296 alphanumeric characters compared to 20 for regular barcodes. This allows businesses to encode detailed product information into one easy-to-scan code, which customers can access quickly with their phones!
As Quick Response codes become increasingly popular, they have found various applications in industries such as retail, healthcare, and transportation. From tracking inventory to providing customers with detailed product information, QR codes have proven to be a versatile tool for businesses and consumers.
Since they can easily be scanned by any device that has a camera, the costs associated with printing out barcodes are eliminated. Additionally, since QR codes allow businesses to store more data in one code, it reduces the need for multiple product labels or stickers.
As mentioned earlier, modern QR codes are equipped with error correction features that ensure that even if part of the code is damaged or obscured, scanners can still read accurately. This also helps to ensure that only valid data is stored in the code! Additionally, the encryption used on many QR codes helps to protect sensitive data from malicious tampering.
As with any technology, QR codes also have some drawbacks. Some of the potential ones include:
Although most modern smartphones support QR code scanning, older phones may be unable to read the code correctly. If consumers cannot access a smartphone or any device capable of reading codes, they will be unable to access the encoded information.
As mentioned earlier, even if part of a code is damaged or obscured, it can still be decoded accurately by scanners; however, this does mean that codes need constant care and protection from environmental factors such as water, sunlight and dirt which may cause irreparable damage to the code rendering it unreadable.
Although QR codes are more secure than regular barcodes, they are still vulnerable to hacking and other malicious activities. Cybercriminals have utilized two types of QR code exploits for their malicious activities. The first, called Quishing, is a phishing attack that utilizes a QR code to direct the victim to an illegitimate website tailored to steal the individual's credentials or other personal data.
QRLjacking is a dangerous type of QR code attack in which malicious actors lure users into scanning a coded image that directs their device to an infected URL. This can result in the user's device becoming infiltrated by malware and other threats. To protect against these attacks, users need to verify any links or URLs before proceeding with them.
Even though QR code scanners are now widely available, many come with a high price tag which can be prohibitive for some businesses. The cost of printing custom-designed codes can also add up quickly.
Different types of encoding schemes used by different companies mean there is no universal standard for reading or writing QR codes. This makes it difficult for businesses to track and store data encoded in different formats accurately. As a result, customers may be unable to access the information they need.
The Bottom Line
Every technology is beneficial when used safely; however, it becomes a nuisance when laid into the wrong hands. All in all, Quick Response codes can be a useful tool for businesses and consumers; however, weighing their advantages and disadvantages is important to get the most out of them. Businesses should use caution when encoding sensitive data into these codes as they are vulnerable to malicious activities. With proper use and care, however, QR codes can prove to be an invaluable asset for your business as well.
While QR codes have some security risks, modern ones are more secure than regular barcodes. Encryption and error correction features can help protect sensitive data from malicious tampering. Additionally, users should always verify any links or URLs before proceeding.
Yes! A device with a camera is needed to scan a QR code. Most modern smartphones support scanning these codes; however, older devices may not be able to read them correctly.
The time they can last depends on the environmental factors they are exposed to, such as water, dirt, and sunlight. Generally speaking, QR codes can last up to 5 years when properly taken care of and protected from such elements.
Almost any type of data can be encoded into a QR code, including text, URLs, contact information, and images. Sensitive information should always be encrypted to protect against malicious activity.