Are QR Codes Safe? Understanding The Safe QR Codes And QR Code Security Risks

Gunel Ismayilova

Nov 27, 2023

6 min read

Are QR Codes Safe

Create Your QR Code in Seconds!

Personalize your QR codes, effortlessly access scanning analytics, and update them hassle-free.

QR code stands for "Quick Response" code, comprised of black and white squares designed to store data such as text, URLs, PDFs, or other data for reading by smartphone cameras or dedicated QR code reader apps. QR codes are generally safe as they are just a method of encoding data in a visual format. QR codes work by encoding data in a 2D pattern of black and white modules creating a square grid.

QR codes offer advanced qualities compared to standard barcodes, including higher data capacity, 2D structure, error correction, fast scanning, data flexibility, design customization, and easy sharing, making QR codes more flexible and robust in various applications.

The potential risks associated with QR codes include leading to malicious content, cyber-security attacks, privacy concerns, spoofed QR codes, mobile app exploitation, and phishing attacks. Use trustworthy QR code scanning programs, scan only from trusted sources, double-check URLs before scanning, avoid transmitting sensitive information over QR codes, and make sure connections to connected websites or online services are encrypted (HTTPS), if possible, for the best security while using QR codes.

Businesses and merchants use QR codes to enhance customer engagement, streamline operations, and facilitate contactless payments. Healthcare benefits from QR codes, particularly in patient identification, medication safety, and contact tracing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

    What are QR Codes?

    QR code stands for "Quick Response" code, comprised of black and white squares designed to store data such as text, URLs, PDFs, or other data for reading by smartphone cameras or dedicated QR code reader apps. QR codes are 2D (two-dimensional) matrix codes first developed in 1994 by Masahiro Hara, the chief engineer of the Japanese company Denso Wave.

    QR codes have become increasingly popular due to their versatility, ease of use, and ability to store a considerable amount of data. QR codes have widespread applications in various industries, including marketing, advertising, retail, logistics, ticketing, product packaging, and more.

    Are QR Codes Safe?

    Yes, QR codes are generally safe as they are just a method of encoding data in a visual format. However, QR code security depends on their content and the source people obtain them. Scammers are able to manipulate QR codes because their appearances look similar. Safe QR codes are those generated by trustworthy and safe QR code generators, such as QR Code Creator, which usually lead to legitimate content.

    Potentially unsafe QR codes come from unknown or suspicious sources and conceivably lead to phishing websites, malicious downloads, or other harmful content attackers use for fraudulent activities. Use the safest QR scanner from a trusted source, inspect the URL before scanning, avoid unsolicited QR codes, and update the device's security software to protect against potential threats to ensure malicious downloads. Exercise caution and verify the source before scanning a QR code to ensure a safe experience.

    How Do QR Codes Work?

    QR codes work by encoding data in a 2D pattern of black and white modules creating a square grid. Each module represents certain pieces of information. QR codes have built-in error correction capabilities, ensuring readability even if the code is damaged. Unique algorithms process the encoded data to generate the QR code's unique pattern. Users must open a QR scanner or phone camera to read the QR code. QR codes are decoded to human-readable data when scanned, enabling the user to access the encoded information quickly.

    What are the Advanced Qualities of QR Codes Compared to Standard Barcodes?

    Listed below are the advanced qualities of QR codes compared to standard barcodes.

    • High data capacity: QR codes store significantly more data than standard barcodes. QR codes are suitable for encoding complex information like website URLs, contact details, etc., since they store 7089 characters instead of 20 characters.
    • 2D structure: QR codes are two-dimensional, while standard barcodes are one-dimensional. The 2D structure allows QR codes to store data horizontally and vertically, packing more data into a smaller space.
    • Error correction: QR codes have built-in error correction capabilities of up to 30%. The QR code is still decoded accurately even if part of it is damaged or obscured. Standard barcodes lack error correction, making them more susceptible to scanning errors.
    • Fast scanning: QR codes are scanned more quickly than standard barcodes. QR codes are able to be scanned by smartphone cameras compared to 1D barcodes. Their two-dimensional structure allows various devices to read the QR code from any orientation, making the scanning process more efficient.
    • Data flexibility: QR codes encode various data types, such as text, URLs, contact information, Wi-Fi access points, calendar events, and app download links. Its versatility enables QR codes to be used in various applications, including marketing, product labeling, event ticketing, and mobile payments.
    • Design customization: QR codes are able to be customized with colors, logos, stickers, and other design elements without affecting their readability. Its customization feature allows businesses and organizations to incorporate branding into their QR codes, making them more visually appealing to users.
    • Easy sharing: QR codes are easily shared and accessed using smartphones with built-in cameras and QR code reader apps. The ease of use has contributed to their widespread adoption in marketing campaigns and everyday transactions.

    What are the Potential Risks Associated with QR Codes?

    Listed below are the potential risks associated with QR codes.

    • Malicious content: QR codes sometimes link to malicious websites or content. Scanning a QR code from an unknown or untrustworthy source are able to lead to phishing websites, malware downloads, or other harmful content. Users must be careful when they want to scan unauthorized QR codes.
    • Cyber-security attacks: Attackers are able to use QR codes to trick users into providing sensitive information. For example, a QR code appears to claim to offer a prize or discount, but instead, it is a social engineering ploy to gather personal data.
    • Privacy concerns: QR codes sometimes contain personal information, such as contact details or account numbers. Unauthorized individuals are able to access the information if it is not managed correctly.
    • Spoofed QR codes: Attackers are able to create counterfeit QR codes that resemble legitimate ones. Users might unintentionally scan these spoofed codes, potentially leading to undesirable consequences. Inspect the URL of a QR code before scanning it to ensure it leads to a legitimate website.
    • Mobile App Exploitation: Some QR code reader apps have vulnerabilities that attackers use to exploit to access a user's device or data. Install a safe QR scanner from trusted sources.
    • Phishing attacks: QR codes are used to redirect users to fake websites designed to steal login credentials or financial information, similar to traditional phishing attacks. It is why mobile users have to only scan codes from trusted sources.

    How to Use QR Codes Securely

    Using QR codes securely involves taking certain precautions to protect the users and the information being accessed. Using QR codes responsibly and following regulations reduces the risk of being victimized by QR code scams or attacks. Awareness and vigilance are essential to maintain a safe QR code environment. Listed below are the guidelines to ensure the secure use of QR codes.

    1. Scan QR codes from trusted sources. Avoid scanning QR codes from random or unverified websites, emails, or sources, as they lead to malicious content or phishing attempts.
    2. Use reputable QR code scanning apps. Download QR code reader apps from trusted app stores. Some malicious apps pretend to disguise themselves as QR code scanners to collect data or perform unauthorized activities.
    3. Check the URL before visiting. Check the URL the QR code scanner displays before scanning a QR code that leads to a website. Ensure that it matches the expected destination.
    4. Protect sensitive information. Avoid encoding sensitive or private information in QR codes, mainly if the codes are intended to be publicly displayed. QR codes are not encrypted; anyone with a QR code reader access the encoded data.
    5. Use secure connections. Ensure the connections are encrypted (HTTPS) if QR codes lead to websites or online services to protect data transmission.


    Get Your Custom QR code quickly!

    Streamline your QR code creation process with our user-friendly tool. Get scanning analytics, and update your QR codes effortlessly.

    How Can a Merchant Use QR Codes?

    QR codes present a versatile and powerful tool for merchants to enhance customer engagement, streamline processes, and improve overall business performance. Merchants leverage QR codes to enhance business operations and engage with customers effectively. They use QR codes to link directly to their website or online store, enabling customers to access product information and reviews and make purchases seamlessly. QR codes are used by merchants for contactless payments, allowing customers to scan and pay via mobile wallets or payment apps. Merchants print QR codes on receipts, packaging, or promotional materials to encourage repeat business by offering exclusive discounts or loyalty rewards. QR codes are valuable for gathering customer feedback, as businesses link QR codes to surveys or feedback forms.

    How Can a Business Use QR Codes?

    Businesses are using QR codes to enhance operations and connect with customers effectively. One of the primary applications is in marketing and advertising. QR codes are printed on marketing materials, packaging, business cards, or even displayed on digital platforms to drive traffic to their page and direct customers to product descriptions, promotional offers, or exclusive content. Dynamic QR codes enable businesses to measure the effectiveness of their campaigns and gather valuable data on customer behavior. QR codes facilitate contactless transactions, allowing customers to make payments or redeem coupons by scanning the code with their smartphones.

    Businesses use QR codes for efficient inventory management, asset tracking, and supply chain optimization. QR codes enhance customer engagement by linking to customer support, feedback forms, and loyalty programs. Businesses use QR codes at events or trade shows to share information about products or services and generate leads.

    How Can Health Care Use QR Codes?

    Healthcare providers use QR codes to streamline various aspects of patient care and safety and improve overall efficiency. QR codes are employed for patient identification and medical record management, ensuring accurate and secure access to patient information. Medical wristbands or ID cards with QR codes facilitate quick and error-free identification during hospital admissions or emergencies. QR codes are utilized on medication labels to provide essential drug information, dosage instructions, and potential interactions, enhancing patient medication safety. Telemedicine services benefit from QR codes by simplifying virtual consultations and enabling easy access to video conferencing platforms.

    One of the most significant applications during the COVID-19 pandemic was contact tracing and patient tracking. Hospitals and healthcare facilities generate unique QR codes for patients, staff, and visitors, scanned upon entry and exit. Consequently, healthcare providers easily trace potential contacts if a patient tests positive for COVID-19, helping to contain the spread of the virus. These QR codes are linked to patients' electronic health records, allowing healthcare professionals to access critical medical information quickly and accurately, thus improving patient care and reducing the risk of errors.

    How Can Someone Use QR Codes for Fraud?

    QR codes are vulnerable to being misused for fraudulent purposes. One standard method involves criminals placing fake QR codes on physical objects or advertising materials to deceive users into scanning them. These QR codes lead to malicious websites, phishing pages, or malware downloads, compromising the users' sensitive information or devices. Scammers use QR codes in social engineering attacks by promoting enticing offers or fake giveaways to lure victims into scanning the codes, which trigger fraudulent transactions or steal personal data. QR codes are manipulated to redirect users to fake payment pages, leading to unauthorized financial transactions. Individuals must be cautious when scanning codes from unknown sources, double-check the website URLs before entering personal information, and use reputable QR code scanner apps with security features to protect against QR code fraud. Awareness and vigilance are crucial in thwarting potential fraudulent activities related to QR codes.

    What are the Advantages of QR Codes?

    Listed below are the advantages of QR codes.

    • Error correction: QR codes have built-in error correction capabilities. The QR code reader interprets the information correctly, even if 30% of the code is damaged or obscured. The error correction capability makes QR codes more robust and reliable.
    • High storage capacity: QR codes store a significant amount of data, depending on the version and type of encoded data. QR codes encode up to 7,089 characters, with a maximum version of 40 (177 x 177 modules). Its capacity is especially useful when encoding complex information and large documents like vCards, audio, or PDFs.
    • Trackable and measurable: QR codes enable businesses and marketers to track and measure engagement with advertisements, products, and promotions. Businesses gather valuable user behavior and preferences data by analyzing Dynamic QR code scans based on their scanning time, location, and devices.
    • Easy integration: QR codes are easily integrated into various media due to their small size and ability to fit into a wide range of settings, such as print materials, digital displays, websites, social media, and mobile apps. QR codes are a convenient way of distributing extensive information in a small area.
    • Accessibility: QR codes provide accessibility features, such as linking to web content with audio or video descriptions, making them helpful for people with visual impairments.

    What are the Disadvantages of QR Codes?

    Listed below are the disadvantages of QR codes.

    • Required Scanning Device: QR codes require a scanning device, typically a smartphone or a dedicated QR code reader app, to access the information they contain. If users don't have a compatible device or don't know how to scan QR codes, it hinders their ability to interact with the content.
    • Insufficient Adoption: QR codes have gained popularity over the years, but their adoption is still not universal. Some people are unfamiliar with how to scan QR codes or are hesitant to use them due to security concerns.
    • Internet dependence: QR codes often lead to online content, such as websites or digital assets. Users need an internet connection to access the linked information, which can be a drawback in areas with poor connectivity or limited data access.
    • Limited Aesthetic Customization: QR codes are customizable with colors, stickers, and logos, but extensive customization causes problems with scanning. Striking a balance between aesthetics and functionality is challenging.

    Can I Use QR Codes to Share My Business Page?

    Yes, anyone can use QR codes to share their business page. The Business Page QR code type is a great way to share the business page. QR codes are a convenient and efficient way to share the business page, as they allow users to access the page with a simple scan rather than typing out a URL manually. Ensure that the page you're directing users to is mobile-friendly and provides relevant and engaging content to the target audience.

    Can I Use QR Codes to Receive Payment from Someone?

    Yes, anyone can use QR codes to receive payments from someone. QR codes are commonly used for facilitating payments and transactions in various settings, making it easy for customers or clients to make payments quickly and securely. Create a Payment QR code with QR Code Creator to receive payment quickly. QR code payments offer a convenient and secure method for accepting payments, and they are widely used in various industries and businesses worldwide. However, choose a trusted and secure payment method and ensure that customers are comfortable using it for transactions. Be vigilant about potential security and fraud risks related to digital payments and QR codes.

    Can QR Codes be Dangerous?

    Yes, QR codes can be dangerous, although the risk is relatively low when used responsibly. QR codes are scannable symbols containing various data types, such as URLs, contact information, product details, etc. Using QR codes for legitimate purposes is generally safe, but malicious actors are able to exploit them in harmful ways. It is crucial for users to be vigilant and to take appropriate precautions to minimize the QR code security risks.

    author image

    Lead Content Manager

    Gunel Ismayilova

    Gunel is the Lead Content Manager at QR Code Creator, where she excels in creating SEO-friendly content and developing creative topics for the website. With a strong background in content writing, Gunel ensures that all content is optimized for search engines and resonates with the target audience. Her passion for storytelling and attention to detail make her work both informative and captivating. Gunel enjoys reading and painting activities that inspire her creativity and provide fresh perspectives.

    Make your materials better

    Add editable and trackable QR Codes on anything you want with full branding and customization features.