Are QR Codes Safe? Real Talk: QR Code Security

Mar 26, 2021
man pulls up pdf safe qr code on his cell phone

Are QR codes safe?

QR codes are safe to make and easy to scan with a trusted QR code generator. Supercode is a secure mechanism and using paid QR code generators that are reputable will ensure that your codes direct you to the right place and are always scanning.

Static QR codes are machine-readable and the content behind the codes cannot be changed once the code is made. Dynamic QR codes can be modified after creation, but in order to change the content inside the code, the user would need to access the QR code generation platform and log in to a profile of a user who generated the code.

Are payment QR codes safe?

Whether it’s payment companies, retail stores, non-profit organizations, POS systems, or charitable organizations, QR codes have become a centralized portal to avoid the exchange of credit cards and push-buttons. After decades of evolution and advancement of applications, QR codes have managed to be in the spotlight. In fact, touchless QR solutions with dedicated apps have become quite common. Common QR code generator software that you find online are not financial institutions and are not for scanning payments. Payment QR codes have to do with banking and government financial institutions.

Every day hundreds of millions of people around the world use QR codes in different industries as a multi-factor user authentication tool or as a mobile payment app. With such a rapid increase in usage and the adoption rate, it is time to reconsider how consumers feel about QR codes. They aren't just for payment and menus.

What are QR codes?

QR codes are quick response codes that have been around for more than two decades. Typically, it is a 2-dimensional barcode that allows an electronic device like a cell phone camera to pick up more than 4,000 characters in the blink of an eye. The technology was invented in 1994 by Masahiro Hara from the Japanese company Denso Wave, where QR codes were designed to track vehicle components throughout the manufacturing process. Although QR codes were created almost 30 years ago, it’s only in the past few years that they have been adopted by consumers and businesses across different industries at scale. The game-changer was Apple’s iOS 11 update in 2017, which enables users to conveniently scan a QR code in seconds by simply using the camera app. Soon after, Android introduced quick and simple tools to scan QR codes too.

International QR code adoption 

QR codes have seen a significant increase in usage in the last few years as restaurants use QRs for menus, although there are way more creative uses for QR codes that make digital marketing campaigns measurable, trackable, and more successful. Informational brochures in stores have been substituted with QR codes, they're used for music downloads, business cards, and more. A Statista September 2020 survey of consumers in the U.S. and the U.K. found that almost 32% of respondents had scanned a QR code in the past week. More than 66% of survey respondents said that they had scanned a QR code within the past month (at the time of the survey).

statistics for when people last scanned a QR code
Image source: Statista

Consumers ask: Are QR codes safe?

According to Statista, whether people believe it’s safe to scan QR codes or not depends on the location. When asked about the most secure locations, 45.4% of U.S. and U.K. consumers revealed that they felt most secure scanning a QR code at a retailer (supermarket, mall, electronics store); 42.55% of respondents felt most secure scanning a QR code at a restaurant, bar, or café.

locations or instances people feel most secure scanning a QR code
Image source: Statista

QR code security concerns

Most security risks of QR codes happen when QR Codes are not readable at all to humans. Mostly, QR codes are secure and offer convenience to hundreds and thousands of businesses and users.

When it comes to implementation, the answer around safety and security becomes a little complicated.

Potential QR code security issues

Technically, QR codes can work as URLs, and can increase the risks of checking a malicious site on a smartphone. Realistically, there is a low risk of a malicious QR code being found in the system. As long as you use a trustworthy QR code generator that doesn't redirect you to another place when scanned, creators of QR codes are paying the platform that uses secure codes. It's at times free QR code generators that aren't upkept that use pop-up ads and other redirects that may increase risk. Scanning an unidentifiable QR code somewhere that isn't advertising anything with no call to action and is just a sticker on a public pole is something one might want to avoid.

Can QR codes be hacked?

No, the actual QR codes themselves cannot be hacked. This is because QR codes are built using a square matrix with pixelated dots so in order for the code to be “hacked”, these dots would have to be changed. QR code technology is safe. The security issues arise from the information saved on the QR code.

What determines QR code security?

Once the information users share is encrypted, it leaves little to no room for unauthorized third-parties to gain access to information. Today, businesses prefer to choose a reliable QR code generator to ensure safety and security. Of course, there are several safety practices that you can roll out to improve the overall security of QR codes.

Here are some safety and security considerations that should be on top of your list:

• You should be able to log in with Single Sign-On or SSO.

• Verify the company and check if it looks legitimate. Use the same company verification process, if required.

• Check the URL to see if it looks different from the website graphics.

• Users should be able to customize the domain.

• Be wary of links or add a + at the end of to see detailed statistics.

• Prioritize QR codes with password protection.

• Make sure your QR code platform is GDPR compliant.

• Get a QR code generator that offers authorized access.

• Create codes only on trusted QR code generator platforms like Supercode.

• Restrict content of the QR code for certain age groups.

There is always a chance of hidden phishing data in a QR code. For the most part, security threats are unlikely to occur because of the complexity of QR codes. It is no wonder QR codes have become more streamlined in major industries around the world. You can expect to see more secure and intuitive methods to discourage manipulation of QR codes and thwart safety issues in the future.

In summary

Always use a trusted QR code generator to make your codes. They are fantastic for routing the person who scans to landing pages, social media sites, feedback forms, and connecting people through email, SMS, and WhatsApp immediately. The benefits of scanning a QR code from a secure platform by a reputable company are worth the widespread adoption of QR codes that has taken place. They are just so easy to make and scan to save valuable content in mobile phones. QR codes are safe and they continue to gain momentum in the digital marketing space.

Try Supercode QR code generator for secure QR codes every time. We offer solutions for every type of QR code along with free how-to guides and design ideas to make your campaign's QR codes safely and successfully.


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