New technology a tool for cyber-criminals

QR codes can be scanned by smartphones

Published  10:58 PM HST Apr 16, 2013
QR code
HONOLULU -

QR codes or quick response codes started as industrial barcodes, but as they quickly grow in popularity they are now being used by tech-savvy criminals.

Texting isn't the only shortcut smartphone owners use to save time.

Some are scanning QR codes, little boxes filled with seemingly random lines, dots and patterns.

Those codes actually contain information that can be scanned by smartphones.

Information like a link to a website, or more details about a product, all instantly uploaded with one click.

"Instead of having to read it or look it up yourself, all you have to do is grab your cellphone and scan it. It will show all the information. It's pretty convenient," said Waipahu resident Mark Sevilleja.

QR codes can be found in magazines, business signs even on flyers posted on bulletin boards, but advertisers aren't the only ones using QR codes.

"Hackers will put in malware or spyware into the codes. People will scan it into their cellphone thinking it is just innocent information," said Internet safety expert Chris Duque.

An infected smartphone may not even show any signs of a problem, but it may still put your information at risk.

"After the user scans the code with their phone, they take their cellphone back home and connect it to their computer. Now their computers are infected with the QR code malware," said Duque.

Many may just be just learning about QR codes, but criminals have already turned to this technology. They are even able to use free software to create their malicious codes.

That information gives some smartphones users second thoughts about the security of the codes.

"I never thought about it before. Because when you think about QR codes, you think that it should be secure," said Sevilleja.

Duque said criminals can easily print up their own codes on stickers and place them over real codes, so he advises everyone to take a good look before they start scanning.

There is security software available for cellphones, and it is highly recommended to install programs on computers that detect and prevent spyware or malware.

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