Scanners beware of the QR code. The wrong code may cause your mobile device, your wallet, or both a considerable amount of agony.
Antivirus software maker Kaspersky Lab has reported on the first known instance of QR code tampering. The incident occurred in Russia last month, fooling consumers who thought they were downloading a new Android app called Jimm. Instead, the code forced the phones to send numerous SMS codes to a premium rate number that charged for each message.
Premium rate numbers operate similar to 900 numbers in the U.S, which charge for each incoming text. This proved to be very costly for these unsuspecting customers, who were charged about $6 for each text.
Theoretically, cyberthieves could attack American consumers in the same way. Tim Armstrong, a malware researcher at Kaspersky, says infected QR codes could also be used for phishing scams.
While infected QR codes are new to the scene, consumers shouldn't be over-cautious, since each device has an interim step between scanning the code and launching the app.
If it's a game and it's requesting SMS, then you know something's wrong, Armstrong said.
Robert Siciliano, a security analyst at McAfee, recommends only clicking on QR codes that belong to a known advertiser or vendor. Those codes are least likely to be infected.
It's just hitting the radar in the security community, Siciliano said. [It's a] pretty brilliant scheme.
The code technology-QR, or quick response-was a big hit in Japan before slowly making its way to U.S. soil. In order to work, the user must take a picture of the pattern with a smartphone, and scanner software reads the data, performs the functions embedded into the code, and typically opens a Web site.
Most of these QR placements are out of home, and people have the opportunity to interact with them, said Matthias Galica, CEO of ShareSquare, a Los angeles-based start-up that makes QR codes. We're seeing the market really accelerate.
Marketers and advertisers, including Calvin Klein and Taco Bell, have been placing the little black and white squares everywhere, from billboards to bus stops. They've even shown up on rooftops and on a tombstone.
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