Handling QR-Codes

A QR code, what´s that?

You´re probably familiar with the barcode and barcode scanners in supermarkets. Information is coded in a kind of picture (in the case of a barcode those are stripes) and can be decoded with the help of a special device.
In contrast to the stripes in a barcode, a so-called QR code ( = Quick Response Code)  is a square containing variations of pixels. Theses squares are created by QR-Code-Generator software. Each square is unique. In this image information is stored that is made visible and understandable for humans by a QR code scanner or reader. The amount of data that can be stored is limited.  Most of the time, the information deposited there is an URL, a website address.

How is it useful to me?

Typing on the small touch screen of a smartphone or tablet can be a tedious affair.
Be honest, have you ever come across some advertisement and stopped to write down the URL/internet address of an event that interests you? Far too time-consuming and tedious.
Of course you could memorize it, but unless you have a photographic memory, your chances of knowing what URL to type into your computer at home are slim.
If the URL, however, is coded in a QR-Code, all you need to do is hold up your smartphone to the code and open your scanner app, and the device will open the website for you, without you typing a single letter yourself.

However, most smartphones or tablets don´t come with a pre-installed QR code scanner app.  So don´t think you  need new glasses if you can´t find that kind of app on your phone.
In order to get such an app, you need to visit an “app store”. Which one depends on the  operating system your phone is using. Android users have the GooglePlay Store (icon is a shopping bag), iPhone owners need to click on the app “iTunes,” and Windows phones have a Windows store.
If you visit that virtual store for the first time (i.e., click on the app on your phone),  you will be asked to log in to your account, or to create one.
If you plan to use more apps on your device than are already on it, you will need this app store in the future, and creating an account is the only way to get there.
It is not recommended to get apps from alternate sources, as you cannot be sure that they have been pre-checked for viruses and the like. You might infect your phone if you get apps from alternative websites.
The information necessary for such an account mostly is a name and an email address. It is technically possible to use an alias, but if you plan on getting apps that are not for free one day, then you will also have to provide billing information —  and with your credit card comes your real name, and at the very latest, Google or Apple or Microsoft will get that information at that point.

Once you have created an account and entered the app store, you will find a search field. This is usually indicated by some stylized form of magnifying glass.
Type in the search words “QR scanner”.
You will be offered a great variety of options.
Please read what rights the app requires[die Suchergebnisse = search results?], how other users rated it and our safety advice, before choosing an app.
Here, we use  the “QR Droid Private”.

Safety advice

For finding a suitable app

No matter what app you wish to install, you should always take a close look at what rights the app wants you to grant it. Ask yourself: does the program really need this kind of access in order to perform the task that I require of it/that it is designed for?
There is no good reason for a flashlight-app to need to know your identity or your friends from your address book. So when you have several choices available, get the app that wants to get to know you the least.
And keep in mind, by doing so, you also send out a message to app developers, that you don´t want future where apps know all about us.
When getting a QR scanner app: Choose one that shows you the URL (www.Internet address) and asks you “Do you want to go there?”, rather than automatically going to that website. That way you can double-check whether you believe that the name of that Internet address corresponds to the content that you wish to see (when scanning a QR code for a travel agency ad, you can expect the name of the agency or some reference to travel in the URL).

A scanner app that leads automatically to a website might sound helpful, because it quickly gets you to where you want to be —  but if the QR code has been tampered with, you might end up where you don´t want to be.

For daily life use:

When you encounter a QR code, rub your fingers across it before scanning it.
Some criminals cover original qr codes with new qr code stickers that will lead to different websites, where you´ll most likely catch a virus, worm or that will try to get you to enter personal information like your bank data.

We recommend that all smartphone or tablet users, especially with Android operated devices, also install an anti-virus app on their device. This is a protective measure, useful independent of whether you get a QR code scanner app or not.
Unless you really know your Internet stuff, you will always be in danger of landing on a website that might not hold what´s best for you.
On the following website you can find the results of anti-virus app tests by IT experts. Unfortunately, the information is only provided in German.