Is This The QR Killer? Codes Can Infect Mobile Devices, No Questions Asked

Written by Frank Hayes
September 14th, 2011

As if QR codes weren’t having enough trouble getting traction among young consumers who should be their biggest fans, now it turns out that the codes are not only widely unused, they’re also unsafe. On September 9, mobile security blog Kaotico Neutral pointed out that because many mobile apps, when fed a QR code containing a URL, will immediately send the browser to that Web site—no questions asked—QR codes can easily be used to inject malware from an infected site into any phone or tablet that scans it.

Worse still, because the checkerboard codes are often on stickers or posters in public places, a QR on a retailer’s legitimate advertising can be turned evil by someone using a replacement QR that covers the original—even in-store. That means QR codes represent a triple threat (literally) for retailers: Many customers don’t know what they are. The ones who do are at risk if they read them. And cybercrooks can use your own advertising and signage to damage your reputation. Yeah, that certainly sounds like the mobile retail gimmick you need.


One Comment | Read Is This The QR Killer? Codes Can Infect Mobile Devices, No Questions Asked

  1. ed Says:

    This URL redirect is a legitimate security concern, especially among non-iOS mobile devices. Keep in mind that “smart posters” with NFC/RFID also have this same risk. Even further is the ultra-sound technology that is making a retro comback to communicate with mobile devices.

    I believe QR codes are more effective on a display screen than on print unless the QR code is gigantic on a billboard. NFC is actually more dangerous and recommend using a case enclosures for the poster and have a proxy app on the client mobile device to verify the url is valid.


StorefrontBacktalk delivers the latest retail technology news & analysis. Join more than 60,000 retail IT leaders who subscribe to our free weekly email. Sign up today!

Most Recent Comments

Why Did Gonzales Hackers Like European Cards So Much Better?

I am still unclear about the core point here-- why higher value of European cards. Supply and demand, yes, makes sense. But the fact that the cards were chip and pin (EMV) should make them less valuable because that demonstrably reduces the ability to use them fraudulently. Did the author mean that the chip and pin cards could be used in a country where EMV is not implemented--the US--and this mis-match make it easier to us them since the issuing banks may not have as robust anti-fraud controls as non-EMV banks because they assumed EMV would do the fraud prevention for them Read more...
Two possible reasons that I can think of and have seen in the past - 1) Cards issued by European banks when used online cross border don't usually support AVS checks. So, when a European card is used with a billing address that's in the US, an ecom merchant wouldn't necessarily know that the shipping zip code doesn't match the billing code. 2) Also, in offline chip countries the card determines whether or not a transaction is approved, not the issuer. In my experience, European issuers haven't developed the same checks on authorization requests as US issuers. So, these cards might be more valuable because they are more likely to get approved. Read more...
A smart card slot in terminals doesn't mean there is a reader or that the reader is activated. Then, activated reader or not, the U.S. processors don't have apps certified or ready to load into those terminals to accept and process smart card transactions just yet. Don't get your card(t) before the terminal (horse). Read more...
The marketplace does speak. More fraud capacity translates to higher value for the stolen data. Because nearly 100% of all US transactions are authorized online in real time, we have less fraud regardless of whether the card is Magstripe only or chip and PIn. Hence, $10 prices for US cards vs $25 for the European counterparts. Read more...
@David True. The European cards have both an EMV chip AND a mag stripe. Europeans may generally use the chip for their transactions, but the insecure stripe remains vulnerable to skimming, whether it be from a false front on an ATM or a dishonest waiter with a handheld skimmer. If their stripe is skimmed, the track data can still be cloned and used fraudulently in the United States. If European banks only detect fraud from 9-5 GMT, that might explain why American criminals prefer them over American bank issued cards, who have fraud detection in place 24x7. Read more...

Our apologies. Due to legal and security copyright issues, we can't facilitate the printing of Premium Content. If you absolutely need a hard copy, please contact customer service.