QR Code Security: A Complete Guide for 2021


With the rise in QR Code usage, QR Code security has become a highly debated topic.

Are QR Codes safe? Can someone hack QR Codes? Does using a customized QR Code help?

QR Code Security

With technology, the #1 concern for businesses and consumers is safety. And rightly so.
I’m going to explain everything you need to know about QR Code security and bust some popular myths.

What to expect from this blog post – 

  1. FOR USERS: How to scan a QR Code safely?
  2. FOR BUSINESSES: What to look for in a safe QR Code generator 
  3. [BONUS] What makes Beaconstac’s QR Codes safe?

Are QR Codes safe to use?

In short, yes. QR Codes are safe.

The naked eye cannot comprehend a QR Code. Invariably, they look the same unless there’s some customization added to the QR Code.

With that said, here are some safe QR Code scanning practices that you can adopt.

Safe QR Code scanning practices: Quick guide for user safety

  1. Check the Domain name
    When scanning the QR Code, a notification describing the content of the URL pops up. Check to see if the domain name is familiar to you. Some brands use their own domain while others rely on QR Code solutions. So if you see the brand’s domain like qr.nike.com or a secure domain like qrcodes.pro or qr.tapnscan.me, it’s okay to go ahead and scan the QR Code.
  2. Stay away from 3rd party QR Code scanners
    Be wary of third-party QR Code scanner apps. Most of the latest smartphones can natively scan QR Codes. If you have an older smartphone model, check out some of the top rated QR Code scanner apps that you can download.
  3. Check the source of the QR Code
    If you see a lone QR Code placed randomly on walls or in a public place, it’s best to avoid scanning this. QR Codes placed on product packaging or a business’s print marketing material or website are generally more reliable.
  4. Update to the latest OS
    Always update the smartphone operating system to the latest one. Updating operating systems to the latest version ensures that the highest security checks are in place, eliminating the possibility of being exposed to security scams. 

If you are using a QR Code to make payments, make sure when you land on the website, you verify there is a padlock icon that indicates the site is secure. You can also click on the padlock icon to see more details about the site’s HTTPS certificate.

Note: This means that the information that you share is encrypted between you and the website so that unauthorized third parties cannot access sensitive information.

If you are using QR Codes to send donations, the legitimacy of the website or campaign cannot be determined by the site’s security so you must do your due diligence.

How to choose a safe and secure QR Code generator for businesses

There are certain security features that can enhance the security of your QR Codes and factors that make for a safe QR Code Generator.

Here’s what you should look for to determine if the QR Code Generator is safe – 

#1 Ability to customize the domain

Customize the URL for QR Codes

Increased link trust and familiarity, branded URLs are proven to increase click-through rates by 34%.

QR Code campaigns with custom domains and URL slugs can help customers identify the campaign and refrain from taking action when directed to a website.  

You should look out for a QR Code Generator that offers a secure domain or the ability to use your domain. For instance, if your business doesn’t have a website, check to see if the domain offered by the QR Code Generator solution is secure.

If you do have a website, then you can map your domain to the solution. For instance, if your business’s website is mcmickey.com then you map it to qr.mcmickey.com

The same goes for the URL slug. You can customize this to let users know what type of campaign you’re running. For instance, if you are running a scavenger hunt, the URL can look like this:

qr.mcmickey.com/scavenger-hunt 

#2 Option to log in with SSO (Single Sign-On) 

SSO login features for QR Codes

Source

Businesses, especially enterprises, need an end-to-end safety feature when creating and editing QR Codes for their campaigns as they deal with high volumes of transactions that cannot be dispersed to everyone.  

Typically, most users use the same password for multiple accounts, exposing themselves to hackers. 59% of users use the same password, and when an intruder gets through, they are likely to access other systems as well. 

With SSO, enterprises and companies can restrict unauthorized logins by setting permissions to a few trusted employees. This promotes an added layer of security as it wards off unknown users from logging in. 

Once an employee is no longer associated with a company, they can not access the software, since their credentials are deactivated and removed from the cloud. 

#3 Is the QR Code platform GDPR compliant?

GDPR compliant QR Code generator

Source

General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, has reformed how businesses process and handle data. 

Businesses compliant with GDPR are bound to protect their customers’ information from any outsider, including unauthorized third-party websites. 

For enterprises, especially, the information they share in the QR Code generator solution is exclusive and sensitive. A secure QR Code generator must offer solutions in adherence to enterprise-level features, including encrypted data, restricting access to personal data, ensuring systems and services are confidential. 

In light of the recent security breaches, this law can help businesses protect their information. GDPR also prevents companies from selling data to unauthorized third-party companies and how they can control their data from being misused. 

Although companies use click-behavior of their users for better-targeted adverts, for many, this practice has been intrusive and ripe for abuse. This makes enterprises that handle massive data doubtful to invest in a QR Code generator that is not GDPR compliant. 

Regular QR Code generators, both online and app-based, that are not GDPR compliant cannot assure their users how their data is being used or distributed.

Although the protection law comes from the EU, it can also apply to businesses outside the region. 

Ergo, QR Code generators that are compliant with law regulations typically offer safe QR Code practices. 

#4 Can you create password-protected QR Codes? 

Having password-protected QR Codes, especially for payment, bank statements, and other essential documents, is paramount.

Password-protected QR Codes increase security for sensitive information. 

For instance, let’s say a QR Code is embedded in a user’s bank statement for approving a loan sanction. When the QR Code is not protected, the documents can be easily accessible, exposing critical information to anyone. 

With password-protected QR Codes, this can be prevented. 

To create a password-protected QR Code, you can add a strong password to the QR Code and share it only with the relevant person. 

#5 Can you restrict content based on age? 

According to a Pew Research Center report, almost 93% of teens aged between 12-17 have access to the internet. 

With such vast numbers of teens going online, businesses must have safeguards to prevent children from accessing content or service that contains age-inappropriate content by setting up an age verification process on their pages. 

Several restaurants, bars and consumer goods companies sell alcoholic beverages and tobacco. In addition, several countries restrict data collection allowance from underage users, including social media services. 

By enforcing age verification set up on the PDF or web store, businesses can prevent underage children from purchasing the service online. 

To set up age-verification, when customizing a QR Code, you can set an age limit. When a user scans the QR Code, they are asked for their date of birth to access the content. 

#6 Does the QR Code generator provide authorized user access?

When creating a dynamic QR Code for any use-case, it is mandatory to log in to the QR Code generator’s dashboard. This makes it impossible for anyone without user access to the dashboard to duplicate and hack into the QR Code information. 

A safe QR Code generator with access control uses authentication to verify its customers’ identity when a user tries to access a resource. The authorized access control checks to confirm if the consumer has been authorized to use that resource.

Some QR Code solutions can also provide varying levels of access to the platform. For instance, if you don’t wish for a team to be able to edit the QR Codes but only view the campaign metrics, you can do so.

When a hacker tries to redirect the QR Code source, the access control denies permission, thus alerting the user of the breach. 

Therefore, even if someone does duplicate the QR Code, they cannot redirect it to a different webpage since it is not editable but instead points it to the original website making it much safer. 

Why are Beaconstac’s QR Codes safe?

          FEATURES               OTHERS
      Single Sign-On (SSO)                     ✅                     ❌
    Authorized User Access                     ✅                     ❌
    Password protection                      ✅                     ❌
    Age-gated content                      ✅                     ❌

Popular brands such as Nike, Emirates, and Nestle have leveraged Beaconstac’s safe QR Code generator solution to scale their marketing efforts, promote user safety, and disburse end-to-end encrypted campaigns to their users and witnessed high success rates. 

Beaconstac’s robust QR Code solution offers elevated enterprise-class security standards and frameworks for enterprises and individuals to deliver unlimited secure, dynamic, and seamless campaigns making it a secure, reliable, and safe QR Code generator.

Beaconstac offers an affordable QR Code solution starting at just $5/month and a 14-day free trial to experience our premium features first-hand. 

If you have concerns or questions about QR Code security, please drop a comment and I will address them.



Engineering Manager


Enthusiastic about marketing technology and helping businesses achieve greater ROI.


This blog was originally published on November 17th, 2020 at 01:54 pm



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