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That square QR barcode on the poster? Check it's not a sticker

Crooks slap on duff codes leading to evil sites

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Cybercrooks are putting up stickers featuring URLs embedded in Quick Response codes (QR codes) as a trick designed to drive traffic to dodgy sites.

QR codes are two-dimensional matrix barcode that can be scanned by smartphones that link users directly to a website without having to type in its address. By using QR codes (rather than links) as a jump-off point to dodgy sites, cybercrooks can disguise the ultimate destination of links.

Security watchers have already seen spam messages pointing to URLs that use embedded QR codes. Now crooks have gone one step further by printing out labels and leaving them in well trafficked locations.

Warren Sealey, director enterprise learning and knowledge management, Symantec Hosted Services explained: "we've seen criminals using bad QR codes in busy places putting them on stickers and putting them over genuine ones in airports and city centres."

Sealey, made his comments at the Ovum Banking Technology Forum 2012 in London on Wednesday.

Sian John, UK security strategist at Symantec, said: “There has been an explosion in the number of QR codes over the last couple of years, and cybercriminals are taking full advantage. Because QR codes just look like pictures it’s extremely difficult to tell if they’re genuine or malicious, making it easy to dupe passers-by into scanning codes that may lead to an infected site, or perhaps a phishing site.

"If users want to make sure that their mobile is protected they should consider a QR reader that can check a website’s reputation before visiting it,” she added. ®

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