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Commentary: Could that QR code you scanned be a phishing threat?

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee: Among the many changes brought about by the pandemic is the widespread use of QR codes, graphical representations of digital data that can be printed and later scanned by a smartphone or other device, but there are some security risks. The United States Federal Trade Commission warned again in December about the danger of scanning a code from an unknown source.

QR codes have a wide range of uses that help people avoid contact with objects and close interactions with other people, including for sharing restaurant menus, email list sign-ups, car and home sales information, and checking in and out of medical and professional appointments.

QR codes are a close cousin of the bar codes on product packaging that cashiers scan with infrared scanners to let the checkout computer know what products are being purchased.

Bar codes store information along one axis, horizontally. QR codes store information in both vertical and horizontal axes, which allows them to hold significantly more data. That extra amount of data is what makes QR codes so versatile.

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