Visible to the public Evaluating Features and Effectiveness of Secure QR Code Scanners

TitleEvaluating Features and Effectiveness of Secure QR Code Scanners
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsDudheria, R.
Conference Name2017 International Conference on Cyber-Enabled Distributed Computing and Knowledge Discovery (CyberC)
ISBN Number978-1-5386-2209-4
KeywordsBrowsers, cryptography, cyber physical systems, Google, Malware, Mobile communication, phishing, pubcrawl, QR code scanner, QR codes, Resiliency, security, smartphone, Uniform resource locators

As QR codes become ubiquitous, there is a prominent security threat of phishing and malware attacks that can be carried out by sharing rogue URLs through such codes. Several QR code scanner apps have become available in the past few years to combat such threats. Nevertheless, limited work exists in the literature evaluating such apps in the context of security. In this paper, we have investigated the status of existing secure QR code scanner apps for Android from a security point of view. We found that several of the so-called secure QR code scanner apps merely present the URL encoded in a QR code to the user rather than validating it against suitable threat databases. Further, many apps do not support basic security features such as displaying the URL to the user and asking for user confirmation before proceeding to open the URL in a browser. The most alarming issue that emerged during this study is that only two of the studied apps perform validation of the redirected URL associated with a QR code. We also tested the relevant apps with a set of benign, phishing and malware URLs collected from multiple sources. Overall, the results of our experiments imply that the protection offered by the examined secure QR code scanner apps against rogue URLs (especially malware URLs) is limited. Based on the findings of our investigation, we have distilled a set of key lessons and proposed design recommendations to enhance the security aspects of such apps.

Citation Keydudheria_evaluating_2017