Careful with Those Shortened Links

By Daniel Scocco

Tinyurl.com started the trend some years ago, and now URL shortening services are everywhere, from social bookmarking sites to mainstream media sites which have their own shortening engines.

In a web that more than ever moves at 140 characters at a time, those services are quite handy (especially the ones that let you track the statistics). Shortened links also have a drawback, however, which is the fact that you can’t see where the link is pointing. Bring malicious users into the picture, and you can see the security risks. There are websites that will try to inject malware in your system as soon as you visit it. Others that will try to set special filters in your Gmail account and so on.

If you want to be safe, therefore, only click on shortened links if you trust who created them. If you must or want click on a link but don’t know if it is legitimate, use a URL unshortening tool. There is one over at Sucuri.net that will reveal the real URL behind the link and make checks with Google and with SiteAdvisor to make sure the website is safe to be visited.

shortened-links

Do you know other tools that will do that? A Firefox extension that checks the safety of shortened links on the fly would be nice, but I haven’t seen one around yet.



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43 Responses to “Careful with Those Shortened Links”

  • Azterik Media

    Thanks for the link to the “unshortner”. This is going to be a great way to find out BEFORE visiting a spam website instead of afterwards.

  • Surveys For Money

    I can’t believe I didn’t think about how dangerous shortened url’s could be. Now that I am, Sucuri’s tool is great to protect against malware and the like. Thanks for sharing about them, I will definitely be using their tool in the future.

  • Darmawan

    Thanks for this great advice.. I never click on this shorten URL
    I’m afraid it takes me to malicious sites
    By using this tool, it’ll remove this concern

  • Ken Nicholas

    Very good points made here. I was recently running an ad on Craigslist [that was first mistake, perhaps] for my Sales consulting services. A VERY innocuous-looking email came to me, offering “Tips” for better marketing tools, etc.

    The note was ‘blind’, and just said, ‘May we suggest…?’, with a shortened URL. Out of normal instinct or reaction, I was one millisecond from clicking on it…exactly what these dirtbags are counting on us to do.

    Thank god I didn’t click on it…I hope YOU don’t either…!

  • vbb

    Another way to get short URLs is hosting it on your own URL,say dailyblogtips.com/xcvf1 .It will not only be safe but also shows at least the main domain where you are going.But for that your own URL should be short-another reason to have shorter domain names 🙂

  • Nickson

    If in case ur visiting them then its good to have “no scripts” firefox addon to make sure that u dont get attacked by some malicious script.

  • Naomi Hamm

    You know that is real good sound advice about that, cause otherwise some of us internet dummies would never know,if someone in the know who does know and then we all know all because of this blog article. And thanks a lot to you for sharing this piece of advice that we all can use from time-to-time, as we do our internet blogging, research and etc……….Take care and great work on that info on what to do about it.

  • Tom Brownsword

    Rex Swain has an awesome HTTP viewer that safely displays the contents of any HTML page in your web browser. It also follows redirects and shows where the redirect points to (and will do so even for multiple redirects).

    It’s a bit “geeky”, perhaps, but as a computer security pro, I love it and use it all the time.

    Here’s the link:

    http://www.rexswain.com/httpview.html

    HTH,
    Tom Brownsword, CISSP, GCIA, Security+, ITIL V3 Foundations
    (not to mention a blogger…!)

  • Blog Ebooks – Claus D Jensen

    Great advice. I have personally never heard of such an url unshortening tool before. So thank you!

    Greetings,
    Claus D Jensen

  • Tom Bradshaw

    Thanks i hadn’t heard of Sucuri.net before now. TinyUrls are useful, although I don’t like it when newspapers or magazines use them because you can never remember them.

  • Liane YoungBlogger

    I was Twitter has that feature directly accessible in the account. Lots of cloaked spammy links now 🙁

  • Chester

    This is very useful post. Thanks for sharing them.

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