People increasingly use QR codes for a wide variety of purposes. Let’s learn how to scan them on desktop and mobile devices and use them securely.
A QR code (also known as a quick response code) is a black-and-white square configuration with data encoded inside. Such matrix barcodes usually have a machine-readable optical label that contains information about an item or other data. Usually, QR codes redirect you to a website or application. You can read QR codes using imaging devices such as phone cameras.
QR codes are like more advanced barcodes because they can contain more data than their less-developed predecessors. So they make it easy to incorporate chunks of data in public spaces and online.
Today, QR codes are employed to convey certain data to their users — you can see them frequently used in restaurants replacing physical menus, scattered around cities containing various tourist info, or replacing paper tickets. QR codes became especially popular during the Covid pandemic because they offered a contactless way for people to gain access to public places and were employed for contact tracing. People can also use QR codes for:
QR codes are detected by 2D image sensors before they are digitally analyzed by a processor. The processor automatically locates the code by analyzing the code’s corners then converts the tiny dots in the code to binary numbers and validates the code with an error-correcting algorithm.
You can scan an external QR code with your built-in iPhone camera. You need to:
1. Open your iPhone camera app.
2. Select the rear-facing view.
3. Point the camera to a QR code until the viewfinder appears in the camera app.
4. Wait a second until your device scans the code and shows you a notification. Then tap on the notification associated with the QR code.
If you wish to scan QR codes on an Android device, the procedure is similar:
1. Open the camera app.
2. Make sure to use the rear-facing view.
3. Point the camera to a QR code and wait a bit.
4. Tap the banner that appears to open the link associated with the QR code.
If you can’t scan your QR code:
Check out our video on how to scan a QR code on Android below.
If you wish to scan a QR code that comes from screenshots or images that are stored in the device you use for scanning, try the steps described below.
First, download the Google Lens tool if you don’t have it already:
1. Tap and hold on the blank space on your iPhone home screen until the icons start jiggling. Tap the “+” icon in the top right corner.
2. Scroll down and tap on “Google.”
3. Swipe till you see the Google lens icon and tap “Add widget.”
4. Now that the widget is added to your home screen, tap the blank space again to stop the icon from jiggling. Tap on the Lens app.
5. Now you can select the image with a QR code from your photo library and scan it with Google Lens. If you don’t have the image in your library, you can always screenshot it and it will automatically appear there. Also, make sure to allow the app to access your photos. If you don’t wish for it to access all your photos, you can just give access to the selected photos. You can do it either in the app or in the iPhone’s settings section.
Another way to do it is by:
1. Opening Google Photos.
2. Allowing access to your photos if prompted.
3. Choosing an image with a QR code.
4. Tapping the lens button on the bottom and waiting for a few seconds until it scans the image.
5. Tapping on the link notification.
Scanning QR images on Android is similar to scanning images in the iOS case:
1. Get the Google Lens app from the Google Play Store.
2. Select the photo with a QR code.
3. Scan it.
In some cases, the Google Lens feature is already implemented in the Android’s native gallery app. In this case:
1. Open the app.
2. Choose the image with a QR code.
3. The app automatically scans the code.
4. Tap on the notification to visit the website.
Please note that you can always use another third-party app to scan your QR images, but always make sure to use a safe one.
Below are the steps for scanning QR codes on your personal computer.
If you use Windows 10, you will need an external QR reading app for reading QR codes. There are many available on the market. Just make sure to use a safe and reliable one. Then all you need to do is put a QR code in front of your webcam, and the app will scan it. The same goes for QR codes in screenshots and images that are stored on your Windows device.
However, scanning QR codes will become more straightforward in the future because Windows 11 will have an in-built QR scanner, so you will no longer need to use third-party apps.
As in the case with Windows, you will need a third-party app for MacOS. Simply find the secure one in Apple’s official app store and place a QR code in front of your camera. If you wish to scan QR codes from images or screenshots that are in your Mac device, you need a third-party app too.
QR codes are secure. They simply function as gateways to a website and cannot store any malicious data themselves. They also don’t track you and can’t collect your data. QR codes just redirect you to a place that their creators want you to visit.
However, a QR code can redirect you to a malicious website if a cybercriminal points it to such a place. Scammers can also employ QR codes for various social engineering purposes (for example, phishing emails) to extract data from you.
Below we list the main QR security threats:
Make sure to check out the following cybersecurity precautions when using QR codes:
Online security starts with a click.
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