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F.T.C. Warns of QR Codes Concealing Risky Links

The Federal Trade Commission (F.T.C.) warns consumers about potential risks associated with scanning Quick Response (QR) codes. These square bar codes, often used for activities such as flight check-ins and restaurant menu access, can sometimes direct individuals to harmful websites that steal personal information. Scammers have increasingly been using deceptive tactics, such as placing their own QR codes on top of legitimate codes, to lure people into clicking on dangerous links. Once opened, these links often lead to the installation of malware or allow scammers to steal personal data. The F.T.C. advises consumers not to scan QR codes from untrusted sources, as these may contain malicious content.

According to the head of threat intelligence at a cybersecurity company, there has been a significant increase in QR code attacks, with over 60,000 samples detected in the third quarter of 2023. The COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to the widespread use of QR codes, making them an attractive tool for cybercriminals. Because mobile devices are frequently used to scan QR codes, individuals are particularly vulnerable to these attacks. The head of threat intelligence recommends taking precautions such as avoiding unknown links and QR codes, using two-factor authentication, and keeping software updated to enhance security.

The F.B.I. also issued an alert to consumers, advising them to avoid downloading apps linked from QR codes and instead to find apps on their device’s app store. Both the F.B.I. and the F.T.C. encourage individuals to verify the legitimacy of URLs and contact the company directly if they are unsure about a QR code’s authenticity. With the rising threat of malicious QR codes, it is essential for both organizations and individuals to exercise caution and implement security measures to protect against potential scams.

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