Saturday, April 7, 2012

Things to know about QR codes.

qrcode
What is a QR Code?

A QR Code, (Quick Response Code),
first designed for the automotive industry, is also known as a two dimensional code, is a small white square with small sections of black covering it. It can be read by the camera of a smartphone, and once read it may instantly redirect the smartphone user to a webpage.
 
**Note: You have to download an app (that can read QR codes) to your smartphone before you can take advantage of this technology.


How are QR Codes used?

QR Codes can be used in a variety of ways to market a business, to provide further information on a product or service by encoding general text, URL, phone number, business card and even provide WiFi access. They are anywhere and everywhere:  in magazines, on billboards, on storefronts, in newspapers.  QR Codes can have unusual applications too, like their use in replacing informational signs on hiking or nature trails. QR Codes storing addresses and Uniform Resource Locators (URLs) may appear in magazines, on signs, on buses, on business cards, or on almost any object about which users might need information.

The QR code above points to Conversion Surf and was made very simply using the free tools at http://qrcode.kaywa.com/ A quick web search will give many other sites for code generators and readers.

Kaywa.com provides the HTML code for whatever Link, text, phone number or SMS data that you want to encode, which can be pasted into your website or blog just like that shown above.  Due to the expanding use of QR codes, it may give you an advertising advantage to use them on your sites!

I haven't explored many other free sites yet, but would be curious to know of other sites. 

A word of warning

Because of the unique ability of QR codes to bridge the gap between our virtual reality and actual reality, many consumers forget that QR codes pose the same dangers as emails and websites.

As QR Codes have grown in popularity, they have also given scammers and hackers, who are looking to steal your personal information or corrupt your cellphone, a new tool to use. QR Codes are an easy way for hackers to take advantage of you, because most of us are still getting used to the idea that our phone is nothing more than a small computer. This small, handheld computer is vulnerable in the same way as your computer at home.

By scanning a QR Code which may instantly launch your built-in web browser, your device could be directed to a malicious website designed to attack a vulnerability and compromise your phone.


QR Code Best Practices

To avoid damaging your smartphone or losing your information, use caution when using QR codes, and adhere to the following tips:
  • If it smells phishy, throw it back. Most of us aren’t tempted to open emails which are obviously spam. However, QR codes are tricky because you cannot weed out the bad from the good by simply looking at the code. Because the vulnerability is practically part of the design, consider downloading an app on your phone which provides a preview to each code before it opens a webpage. This way, you will have right of refusal if you think the QR code is corrupted.
  • Remember the old proverb, “Curiosity killed the cat.” Hackers prey on curiosity, thus if you see a lonely QR Code posted on a wall, DO NOT scan it to find out why is it there and what it does.
  • Back up your information. If you do get a virus from a QR Code which damages the software on your smartphone, not all will be lost if you have backed up your phone to your computer. Generally, a smartphone does this on its own each time you plug your phone into your computer. If you make it a practice to back up your information regularly, you may lose your phone, but at least not all will be lost.
  • Use caution when using your smartphone for banking, shopping etc.  We hear it all the time, but do we really listen?  Using your smartphone to do any of your finances means that you are taking a chance with your money.  As discussed earlier, QR codes are used to compromise devices thus putting all data on the device or interacting with the device at risk. Also pick-pockets and anyone with eyes can glean credit card numbers without your ever realising it.

Thanks for reading
Ian Begg
Always in motion is the future.
By: Yoda - Star Wars, Episode V