How to know if a QR code or a short URL is safe
You may have noticed that we are well into the era of the QR code – every restaurant, state agency, and store you interact with has a prominent QR code. Technology is a convenience, tagive us access to the information we want quickly and directly, while hiding the actual destination until we’ve arrived. This means which QR codes and URL Shorteners offer in terms of comfort costs us in terms of security. So how to know if a QR code or short URL is safe to use?
trust no one
First, never assume that a short URL or QR code is legitimate—always suppose that is not the case. Jhey are easy to produce, and wrong QR code stickers can be easily applied to a legitimate QR code in a restaurant, for example. So even if you think you open your favorite brewery’s beer list, you risk falling victim to a phishing scam or other site. It’s so easy to fake a QR code in a public place that you should just assume they are all false.
As well, anyone can throw a short URL in an email, text or other communication and you can have no way of knowing if it’s legit or not, so assume these are harmful, also.
The safest thing to do when a company offers a short URL or QR code like convenience is to go directly to their site manually. Yes, it defeats the purpose of these tools, but it’s the only way to make sure your phone or other device isn’t hacked.
If the QR code or short URL is supposed to take you to a website that you can’t just access on your browser, ask the company to give you a new menu or other document with the code or URL. above. This at least minimizes the possibility that the code you are about to scan has been compromised.
Get a scanner
Another option is to add some security. You can replace your original QR code scanner with a more secure version which will check the URL you are directed to and give you the option to skip it or continue. Some phone operating systems have this feature built into their original QR code scanner, so you may already have this protection.
For short URLs, you have a few options. If the URL was generated by Bitly, you can simply add a plus sign (“+”) to the URL and Bitly will display a Overview. Another popular URL shortener, TinyURL, offers similar preview functionality – just place “preview” in in front of the shortened URL. You can also paste the short URL into a site like Shorten.it to see where he wants to take you before you commit.
It’s a fact of life that convenience often trumps security, and we live in a world where compromising our phone is a lot like leaving our house unlocked with the door wide open. A few extra seconds of due diligence when it comes to short URLs and QR codes can save you a lot of heartache.