Monday, January 2, 2012

3 Ways to Investigate Suspicious URLs BEFORE Visiting Them

Look Before You ClickEvery once in a while you will come across a website link that just doesn’t feel right.

The link may have been sent to you by a close friend; maybe it was embedded in an email you received this morning; or perhaps it was shared by a Twitter user whom you suspect is actually a spam bot.

Regardless of how it was received, you somehow find yourself sitting at your desk with your index finger hovering over the left-mouse button as you silently weigh the risks of following it in your head.

Instead of making a blind decision that could lead you straight to a phishing site or worse (like a drive-by-download), try investigating a link BEFORE you actually click on it.

Expand All Shortened URLs

It’s pretty much impossible to determine whether or not a link is dangerous if it’s been docked and cloaked by a URL shortening service, so the first thing you will want to do is figure out the destination of shortened URL.

Here are a few online websites that allow you to expand shortened URLs:

Now that you have the actual destination URL, you’ll have a better idea of what you’re dealing with.

Still can’t decide whether or not it’s safe?

Run the Link Through a URL Scanner

There are a number of URL scanning tools out there; some require you download a browser plug-in while others are an online service that will scan the URL you provide. I’ve provided the URL scanners that do NOT require any type of download or installation:

It is important to note that although these online scanners are backed by a variety of highly-regarded & well-known antivirus engines, nothing it’s ever 100% guaranteed. However, it does add another layer of protection aside from your intuition and whatever antivirus software you have installed on your PC.

Google the URL

If a suspicious link you’ve ran through an online scanner passed with flying colors and yet you still can’t pull yourself to click on it, you could always try Googling it.

That way, if anyone has publicly called foul-play on a URL, you’ll find out about it. For instance, when we blow the whistle on survey scams circulating on Facebook, we often provide the offending URL to help people recognize the scam when they see it.

By completing background checks on links, you can greatly reduce your chances of visiting phishing sites, malware-serving pages, or any other website that you may not find suitable.

Happy web surfing!

Photo Credit: el_itur

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