Jun 13 2023
What is a QR Code? Its Usage, Vulnerability, Advantages, and Comeback Story - Part 1

What is a QR Code? Its Usage, Vulnerability, Advantages, and Comeback Story – Part 1

This article helps you understand what a QR code is, how it works, the different types of QR codes, the rise in its usage, the risks involved, the advantages and disadvantages, and whether it is safe.


A QR code (Quick Response Code) is a 2D barcode you can see on your mobile phone or the reader to get information quickly and easily. You can have different types of data, for example, websites’ URLs, contact details, and product information, in the QR code. The code comprises the blacks and whites laid out on a grid, with each square representing one piece of information. A QR code is most commonly used for advertising, marketing, or sharing information, and its use continues to increase in contactless payment systems and other applications.

Rise in the Use of QR Codes

QR codes are easy to scan with your mobile phone camera, which allows you to access information and conduct transactions quickly and easily. It is more widespread than ever because of the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak and as businesses switch from cash to smart card payments and menus. As businesses and organizations find new and creative ways to use QR codes, their popularity is expected to grow.

Rise in the Use of QR Codes

In marketing campaigns, QR codes may give customers easy access to product information or promotional offers. As wireless devices and electronic payments increase, QR codes will continue becoming popular for enterprises and consumers.

In addition, QR codes for contactless payments and restaurant menus have been enhanced by the COVID-19 pandemic to become a necessary part of our daily lives. The post-pandemic world is the new era of QR codes, it has become part of everyone’s life in this technological world, and it still emerges to grow rapidly until its replacement is found.

There are 5.32 billion unique QR Code users. The United States of America stands at the first place in usage followed by countries like India, France etc. According to the 2022 QR code statistics, usage of scanning and generation boost increased by a precise percentage of 443% and 438% respectively. The pandemic just paved the way for the rise of QR codes, users across the globe prefer QR code in order to maintain social distancing.

QR Code Adoption Across Industries

QR codes have become increasingly popular among businesses due to their ease of use and versatility. Different businesses use QR codes for various purposes, such as connecting to the website, social media pages, or product information. For instance, restaurants use QR codes to let customers view menus and order food, so they don’t have to handle physical menus. In contrast, retail outlets use QR codes to provide product information and special offers.

A contactless payment option, which reduces the number of cash transactions and is faster and more effective at checkout, has also been offered by QR codes. In addition, the use of QR codes as a way to track customers’ behavior and collect data for advertising purposes is effective. As a result, as they offer an efficient and cost-effective way to interact with customers and streamline operations, QR codes are expected to grow in popularity within individual companies over the coming years.

Top 11 diverse industries that have a high usage count on QR Code

Top 11 diverse industries that have a high usage count on QR Code

  • Retail

    QR codes are applied in the retail sector to provide information about products, prices, or discounts.

  • Restaurant

    The food and beverage sector has very well-used QR codes. It is an ideal way to interact with your customers and ask for their interest so that you can initiate the desired action.

  • Marketing

    The marketing campaigns use QR codes, leading clients to websites, social media sites, or advertising materials.

  • Transport

    The use of QR codes in the transport sector is to provide digital tickets, boarding passes, and travel information.

  • Financing

    QR codes finance mobile payments, transfers, and online banking.

  • Health Care

    QR codes are used in healthcare for patient identification, record keeping, and medication tracking.

  • Education

    QR codes are applied in educational institutions for interactive learning experiences, access to digital tools, and tracking of enrolments.

  • Entertainment

    QR codes are used for ticketing, interactive experiences, and scavenger hunts in entertainment.

  • Hospitality

    Check-in, menu order, and the management of loyalty programs are based on QR codes in hospitality.

  • Real Estate

    QR codes are used for listing properties, virtual tours, and contactless property displays.

  • Manufacturing

    QR codes to manage stock, track products, and control quality are applied in manufacturing goods.

QR Codes: A Tool for Threat Actors?

Although QR codes are becoming increasingly popular for easy information sharing, they can also be used by hackers who want to spread malicious content. Attackers can easily trick unaware users into downloading malware or providing them with sensitive information when they create a QR code that leads directly to the malicious website or app. When you scan a QR code, it’s important to be careful about reading codes that come from trustworthy sources. Moreover, businesses should protect their QR codes and ensure they are not being used for malicious purposes.

The common reasons why QR codes could be used as a threat tool:

The common reasons why QR codes could be used as a threat tool

  • Easy Access

    Threat actors can use QR codes to drive users to malicious sites hosting malware or phishing scams. The user who scans these codes may not realize that they are exposing themselves to many online risks, such as identity fraud or money laundering.

  • Social Engineering

    It can be designed to look like legitimate codes, thus allowing users to trust and scan them without suspicion. The threat actors are able to misuse that trust and trick users in providing privileged information or downloading a dangerous piece of software.

  • Information theft

    Personal information from unsuspecting users can be collected using QR codes. A user who scans a malicious QR code could be prompted to provide their login credentials, giving attackers the ability to steal data or access accounts without authorisation.

  • Physical security breaches

    A malicious QR code may be planted at physical locations such as posters, flyers or stickers by the threat actors. Unsuspecting persons who scan these codes may unknowingly allow an attacker to gain access to their devices, compromising their data and potentially leading to further security breaches.

  • Exploitation of vulnerabilities

    There may be vulnerabilities in QR scan apps and software that can allow attackers to take advantage of them. Exploiting these vulnerabilities allows attackers to gain unauthorised access to the devices, exploit those vulnerabilities and possibly control targeted systems by tricking users into scanning malicious QR codes.

What is a QR Code?

What is a QR Code?

A QR code (quick response code) is a type of two-dimensional barcode consisting of a pattern of dark strips and squares called the QR code, or Quick Response Code. Open your camera app on your phone and point it to the QR code to take advantage of this feature. Your phone will automatically recognize the code, and the associated information or Web page will open for you.

They often provide information about a product or service or direct users to a website or app. QR codes are considered a one-way communication technology, so not all QR codes are legit and easy to scam users. There are different types of QR codes used around the globe, each QR code type has different features and users can make use of it by selecting the desired QR code type. Types of QR Codes for more details.

  • Static QR Code

    Static QR codes are codes that cannot be edited, tracked and updated once created. It takes a long time to show the results when scanned and has a lengthy URL.

  • Dynamic QR Code

    Dynamic QR codes can be edited, shared easily, offers tracking and analytics. It has a short, understandable URL and provides instant results when scanned.

How Does a QR Code Work?

QR codes work by encoding information into a pattern of dots and spaces that a computer can read. When the code is scanned by a mobile phone camera or QR code reader, it reads the pattern and decodes the information displayed on the device.

QR codes may be used in several ways, for example: In an advertisement on business cards or the packaging of products. They are a quick and effective way of accessing information, which may also be useful to businesses to communicate with their customers. QR code is widely used for Inventory Management, Authentication, Marketing, and sharing and transmitting information.

How Does a QR Code Work?

How is QR Designed?

These codes are designed to be read by the QR reader application that encodes information into a pattern of black and white squares. The modules are arranged in a pattern that allows error correction and helps the scanner locate and read the code even if it’s partially damaged. There are various steps involved in the development of a QR code. Generate the pattern and add error correction codes and parameters such as size, color, or background using a QR code generator software.

Types of QR Codes

You can find different QR codes, each with special characteristics and capabilities. Here are some of the most common types of QR codes:

Types of QR Codes

  1. Standard QR Code

    It is the simplest QR code to read by any scanner. It can store up to 3,000 alphanumeric characters or 7,000 numeric characters.

  2. Micro QR Code

    They are smaller than the standard QR codes and are usually used in cases where space is limited. It can contain up to 35 alphanumeric characters or 71 numerical characters.

  3. Square QR Codes

    The square QR code has a higher storage capacity than standard QR codes. It can store up to 7,000 alphanumeric characters or 14,000 numeric characters.

  4. SQRC QR Codes

    This QR code type has a security feature to protect against unauthorized scanning. They are suitable for applications such as payment systems and identification cards.

  5. Frame QR Codes

    This type of QR code has a configurable frame around them. For branding or promotional purposes, they may be used.

  6. High-Capacity Colour QR Codes

    These QR codes, which can store up to 2,500 alphanumeric and five thousand numeric characters in addition to a colored background, are color coded. It is appropriate to use them for advertising and marketing purposes.

  7. Custom QR Code

    These codes have been specially designed with a logo or an image in their center. These codes have been specially designed with a logo or an image in their center. They’re available to use for branding and advertising purposes.

  8. Numeric QR Code

    This QR code only contains numeric data, such as a phone or account number.

  9. Alphanumeric QR Code

    This type of QR code contains letters and numbers and can encode any text data.

There are also other specialized types of QR codes used for specific purposes, such as payment QR codes used for mobile payments or event QR codes used for ticketing and check-in purposes.

Where are the QR Codes Used?

In a variety of industries and applications, QR codes are used. They are commonly used in marketing campaigns for direct consumer access to websites or promotional offers. Product packaging can also be printed with QR codes, making it easier for customers to browse product information or discounts quickly.

QR codes are used to issue electronic tickets and checks in the transport sector. In addition, these substances are administered in healthcare for patient identification and drug administration monitoring.

In museums and tourist sites, QR codes may also be found to provide visitors with more information about objects or places of interest. The QR code has become a powerful tool for businesses and organizations to engage with consumers and streamline their processes.

Advantages and Disadvantages of QR Codes

Advantages of QR Codes

Advantages of QR Codes

  1. Storage Capacity

    Compared to traditional barcode codes, QR codes can store much more data. They’re capable of holding up to a hundred times more information.

  2. Adaptable

    You can use QR codes in various applications, from advertising and promotion to ticketing and payment. It can be scanned with a mobile phone camera, making it easy for consumers and businesses to use.

  3. Easy to Generate

    Businesses can quickly and easily create codes for their products and services using free online tools or mobile applications, enabling QR codes to be created quickly.

  4. Cost Effective

    A QR code is a cost-efficient promotional tool that can provide additional information on the products, services, and promotions where no other printed material is required.

  5. Engaged with Consumers

    QR codes can increase customer engagement with your brand by providing access to exclusive content or promotional offers, encouraging interaction with social media, and offering more interactive experiences.

  6. Tracking

    The marketing campaign’s effectiveness, customer engagement, and behavior data can be obtained using QR codes.

Disadvantages of QR Codes

Disadvantages of QR Codes

  1. Limited Access

    The efficiency of this advertising tool may be limited by the fact that not all consumers have a mobile phone and can scan QR codes.

  2. Misuse of QR Codes

    The QR codes can be easily duplicated or tampered with, which could result in fraud and misuse of the information.

  3. Lack of Awareness

    Although QR codes have been used for years, not all consumers know what they are or how to take advantage of them, which might hamper their effectiveness as a marketing tool.

  4. Quality

    Depending on the method used to generate them, the quality of a QR code may be different and capable of affecting its readability and effectiveness.

  5. Security Risks

    Because QR codes can contain a link to suspected websites or additional security risks, consumers must be careful when reading the code from unfamiliar sources.

  6. Privacy Concerns

    QR codes may collect data from users, leading to privacy concerns for some users.

The Comeback Story of QR Code

The increasing use of QR codes is an example of significant changes in our daily lives and working conditions because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In many countries, these two-dimensional barcode codes, which allow you to scan using your camera, have become an increasingly popular means for paying through the NFC mode of payments, mobile authentication, and information sharing. A QR code is essential to limit physical contact and minimize the spread of viruses, as businesses and individuals have been forced to adopt a more hygienic approach due to this pandemic.

Impact of QR Codes in Various Sectors

Many restaurants and cafes use QR codes to mark their menus, contact tracings, or order systems in the food and hospitality sector. Governments have also been using QR codes to communicate information on pandemics, such as guidelines and health messages. In addition to the pandemic, the popularity of QR codes has been driven by their ease of use and convenience. QR codes are ideal for enterprises and individuals, as they can be created and scanned quickly and efficiently.

New applications and innovations, like the QR code menu, can be translated into various languages. QR codes are still useful for combating COVID-19 and other threats because of the pandemic’s continuing impact on our everyday lives.

Adoption of QR Code

In recent years, thanks to the recognition of the convenience and efficiency of the QR code by both businesses and consumers, the adoption of the code has increased significantly. Global payments for the QR code are expected to reach 3 trillion dollars by 2025, up from $219 billion in 2020, according to a Juniper Research report.

The pandemic COVID19, which has helped to increase the adoption of the Quick Response Codes as they let you access information and make payments wirelessly, is also playing an important role. QR codes are also being implemented in various sectors, including retail, hospitality, and health care. The adoption of QR codes in the next few years will grow as more users use their smartphones.

QR Code Usage by Countries: Top 10 Countries with the Highest Scanning Activity

By 2016, more than 700 million users of QR codes were using them all over China, which has seen widespread use of these codes to pay on the phone. In 2020, the number of households using a QR code will reach more than 11 million across America alone. Dynamic QR codes generated by users have generated a total of 6,825,842 scans from global users, an increase of 433% compared to 2021.

In the first quarter of 2022, these ten countries have had the most scanning activities according to the QR TIGER database:

QR Code Usage by Countries: Top 10 Countries with the Highest Scanning Activity

Are QR Codes Safe to Use?

QR codes are popular for quick website access, payments, and more. Users scan the code with their smartphone camera. However, there are concerns about the safety of malicious actors who use QR codes to conduct scams or phishing attacks.

There is no inherent danger in the QR code itself; hackers can use it as a tool for their attacks. Users might be directed to a fraudulent website pretending to be legitimate and requiring them to enter sensitive information through a bad QR code, such as their logins or credit card details.

Points to Consider Before Scanning a QR Code

  • QR codes can be safe to scan if they come from a trusted source and with a secure QR code reader along with the safety features in them.
  • QR codes can be used for malicious QR code attacks by creating a phishing site replicating the original site. When scanned, you will be redirected to the fake website.
  • It is easy for hackers to create fake QR codes to trick you into clicking on them, and many people do not verify the source of the QR code before it is scanned.
  • Avoid scanning any QR code if it looks suspicious or comes from an unknown source. Be vigilant and cautious before scanning.
  • Avoid reading QR codes in unsolicited emails, texts, or social media posts, and always verify the source of that code before it is scanned.
  • Use a QR code reader trusted source which indicates malware or redirects before opening it.
  • If a suspicious QR code is attached to the mail, check for the spelling of the email address, domain name, and the sender’s name.
  • When scanning QR codes in public places or unfamiliar websites, you can also use a virtual private network VPN to protect your device from potential attacks.

The bottom line is that QR Codes are safe to use, but you should remember the risks involved, be cautious by taking possible precautions, and follow the best practices to avoid QR Code attacks.

Are QR Codes Hackable?

Along with the increasing popularity of QR Codes comes the concerns raised about their security, as regards the potential for hackers to gain access to the QR codes. But to answer the question, Are QR Codes Hackable? The answer is Yes. QR Codes can be hacked, but the process is not simple as it may seem.

QR codes are images with data that can be manipulated to redirect people to malicious websites or download malware onto their devices. Hackers can achieve this by creating fake QR codes or altering legitimate ones, so it’s important to be careful with scanning from unknown sources.

Additional Securities

It is worth noting that QR codes can also be more secure by using encryption techniques such as digital signatures or encoding the data in a way that makes decoding difficult. Certain QR code generators also contain features such as URL verification and virus scanning to help prevent malicious attacks.

The security of QR codes depends on a combination of factors, such as the code generator’s actions, the device that is supposed to be reading them, and the user’s awareness and caution. The importance of maintaining your vigilance and taking preventive measures against possible security risks is, like any technology, the same.

Moreover, security measures aimed at detecting and blocking potentially problematic QR codes have been implemented by a large number of well-known Mobile Devices and Operating Systems. For example, when scanning a QR code, Apple’s iOS automatically checks for known malicious URLs, while Google’s Android devices can be configured to require confirmation before opening a link.

Strategies Followed by the Hackers

QR Codes are vulnerable to hacking. Hackers use various strategies to break QR codes, obtain access to confidential information, or control a device. It is one of the most commonly used methods to insert an exploit code in a QR code that unsuspecting users can scan. This code can be designed to take advantage of vulnerabilities on the user’s device or steal personal information.

Another strategy involves creating counterfeit QR codes that look authentic, but they appear to give rise to Phishing sites or further disseminating misleading information. The hackers may also exploit social engineering techniques, such as offering an eye-catching prize or incentive, to trick users when they scan QR codes. To protect yourself, you should only scan QR codes from trustworthy sources and use a reliable scanner app that allows users to detect and warn of potential risks.

Moreover, users should be cautious when entering personal information or clicking on links after scanning the QR code and pay particular attention to suspicious behavior on their devices. Users can contribute to protecting the protection of QR codes from hackers and ensuring their data is safe through these best practices.

QR Code and its Vulnerability

A QR code may become vulnerable to different security threats, and users must be aware of it to protect their data. The susceptibility of the QR codes to cyber-attacks and alteration is one of their greatest vulnerabilities. The attackers could create malicious QR codes which appear legitimate but will lead users to phishing pages or other harmful content. QR codes can also initiate an attack, such as malware installation or data theft. Users can be deceived into scanning the code leading to malicious applications or websites that may compromise their data.

Here are the Main Points Why QR Codes are Vulnerable:

  1. Your own eyes can’t detect a fraudulent QR code. No one finds what’s waiting behind the QR code when the device scans it.
  2. Some QR codes can be corrupted and provide inaccurate information that could lead to us losing our data.
  3. It requires a high-maintenance security level to ensure the end-users have the correct information.

QR codes lack security features, unlike traditional passwords or authentication methods. The QR codes are unsecured or unprotected, which creates a risk of interception and misuse. It is also possible to copy and paste QR codes, which can lead to difficulty in identifying the code’s authenticity or contents.

To mitigate these weaknesses, users should scan QR codes from authorized sources, ensure their Mobile devices are up to date with the most recent security patches, and use other authentication methods where necessary. Implementing these precautionary measures will protect the QR codes from possible security threats.


The QR code has revolutionized how payments are made so that funds can be transferred quickly and easily. Given the increasing number of Mobile Payments, QR codes are becoming more widely used because of their convenience and security. You can use QR codes easily: scan the code on your phone’s camera, and you will receive a payment. With the ability to retrieve information and make transactions, QR codes have become an indispensable tool for businesses and consumers alike quickly and easily. It will result in greater efficiency and seamless payment transactions without cash or cards.

In addition, QR codes can be used for various other purposes, such as accessing websites or downloading applications, making them an excellent tool for businesses and consumers. Overall, QR codes provide users with an intuitive way to make payments and complete a wide range of transactions at the touch of a button.

About the Author

Pratik Jogi

Pratik Jogi is a cybersecurity visionary with an Electronics & Communications Engineering degree. He holds esteemed certifications like Microsoft MCSE and MVP. With over two decades dedicated to defending the digital frontier, his expertise in Server, Network, and Cyber Security reflects a genuine commitment to secure digital landscapes against emerging threats.