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Scanning QR Codes: Be Safe

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QR codes have been grabbing the headlines recently because of users being redirected to a site that contains malware. Reports have called it “infected QR codes,” which is quite a misnomer because a QR code can never be manipulated to become “infected,” although the mobile site where it takes you could be.

The sad thing is that there is no way for you to know if a QR code would take you to a malicious site, unless you scan it.

But how do you protect yourself from falling victim to hackers and malware when scanning QR codes? Here are three ways:

1. Choose your QR code scanner carefully. There are QR code scanners available on both the App Store and the Android Market that take security into the equation. For instance, QR Pal uses SafeScan to ensure that your every scan is secure. Symantec, the antivirus company, has also released the Norton Snap QR Code Reader that warns you against malicious QR codes and blocks unsafe websites.

2. Download an antivirus app. Even your mobile phone needs to be proactively protected from viruses. The good news is that there are a lot of free antivirus mobile apps out there that can help you.

3. Scan only customized QR codes. A customized QR code will tell you who created the QR code, what it is for and where it should take you.

Even without reading anything, you would know that this is a QR code for Cardio Panda, a service that helps you connect with other fitness enthusiasts in your area so that you could have a running partner or a gym partner.

Admittedly, not all companies are using customized QR codes. Too bad because not only does customizing the code make it less boring but it also stamps brand identity and makes it easier for users to ascertain that it is from a legitimate company, rather than an impostor.

Which brings us to…

4. Use your common sense and scan only QR codes from trusted sources. Be careful when you are scanning a code on the street without even verifying its source. While scanning a code featured in a magazine or newspaper article might be considered safe, you just can’t be too sure when it comes to QR codes found on posters on the street, or flyers being handed out.

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