Many times, we share links among our friends on social media platforms like WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. But do we know how safe they are? What can happen if you click on any malicious link? We never think of the following things :
- Links can drop various harmful programs, viruses on your device
- Links can steal your personal data by dropping spyware or keyloggers
- Use your browser for crypto mining which will affect your device's performance
Even if your device is secured with antivirus, not all of them warn you before clicking such malicious links. And the moment you click on these, they will become big trouble for you. This can sometimes even be dangerous with regard to data security and identity theft. So, Be careful about what you click on.
These days one of the quickest growing security issues is ransomware, which is often spread by the user unintentionally clicking dangerous links in emails, social media platforms, messengers, and other tools. So, it becomes very important to know which links are safe and which are not.
Therefore, In this article, I am discussing how to check if a link is safe to click or not.
After reading this article, you will surely be able to decide if you should click on the link you come across while surfing or ignore it.
First of all, you have to understand the types of links.
There are three types of links :
1. A normal full-length link, that clearly shows which site it is pointing to like https://www.google.com or https://www.towardscybersecurity.com.
2. A shortened link, such as "goo.gl", "bit.ly", "Owl.ly" and so on. It's a little difficult to understand if these links are safe or not.
3. An embedded link, that can be most unsafe in which you might be shown any link but if you click on them it redirects you to some other page. Such links may even open up random websites and then finally take you to the main website.
Unfortunately, all the above categories of links can be dangerous in one way or the other. Thus, it is better to check any unknown link that you come across before actually clicking on it.
How To Check If a Link Is Safe
It is a good move to take extra safety before you click any suspicious links. Here is how to detect a link that you think might be malicious.
1. Check The Domain Name Carefully
As a first step, you should take a look at the domain name in the link carefully.
Altered spelling of a domain name is an almost certain sign of a phishing attempt. For example, attackers may use something like http://www.1egitimatebank.com instead of http://www.legitimatebank.com.
Did you spot the difference?
The first link uses the number 1 instead of the letter l. Easy to miss if you don't look carefully.
Another common plot is to substitute the letter O with the number 0 (zero).
2. Hover Over The Link
Hovering over links decodes where the links leads and could, therefore, keep you well informed.
So, get in the habit of first hovering over the link with your mouse cursor before clicking on it. This will show you the actual address of the link. Then you can click the link later if the address is legitimate.
If you hover over the link, you'll find the full link of the link's destination at the bottom left corner of your browser window.
Sometimes you will get a link like this :
Now, simply hover over the above link and see at the bottom left corner of your browser window. You will see that the link does not go to www.google.com as most you might think at first. Instead, the link goes to www.bing.com.
The attackers use this simple method of masking links to trick you into thinking that the link that you are going to click is trustworthy. So, before clicking on any links that you think might be malicious, hover over it.
3. Always Look For HTTPS
This is the first thing that you should do, checking the HTTPS in front of every link that you are trying to visit. Here, the HTTPS means the website is verified and secured with an SSL certificate.
In the earlier days it was not mandatory to use HTTPS but due to the growing cyberattacks and to make the web a safer place, pretty much every site owner is using HTTPS.
If you see the link that is using HTTP instead of HTTPS then you can visit that website but you should not do any sensitive things on that website. Providing your username or password on that website would be a stupid thing to do. This is because your data will be transferred in plain text that can be easily obtained by an attacker id an attacker is sniffing the traffic of that website.
So, it is better to avoid the link that doesn't have HTTPS.
Link scanners are websites that let checks if a Link is safe to visit or not. These Link scanners have cloud-based antivirus software installed that checks a link for malicious content or phishing signals. There are many free and secure Link scanner available.
Google Transparency Report, Kaspersky VirusDesk, and URLVoid are the best Link Scanners that offer link safety checking. They index the remote destination and then report back on what was found so you never have to load the link on your own device.
It is one of the best and the quickest way to check if a link is safe or not. If a link is leading to a phishing page or a website that will try to install ransomware on your computer, these Link scanners will immediately let you know about it.
Let's see an example.
To check any link, Hit "right-click" on the link then from the pop-up context menu, click on "Copy Shortcut" or "Copy Link Location" or "Copy Link Address" depending upon the web browser you are using.
Now the link is copied to your clipboard, then paste this link yo any of the above Link Scanner.
Suppose, if your link is https://www.towardscybersecurity.com/.
Now open the Google Transparency Report Link Scanner.
Paste copied link in the search field and hit "Enter". Google will scan and display the status of whether the link is safe or malicious.
How To Check If a Shortened Link Is Safe
A shortened link is really a mystery. You can't tell if a shortened link is dangerous just by looking at it. And you also don't know which website it will take you to. As such, these shortened links are the perfect tool for malware and phishing.
In this type of case, hovering over the link doesn't help much.
Firstly, here's a little trick if you come across Bit.ly or Google shortened links. Copy the link, paste it in your browser address bar and, before hitting "Enter", add the "+" symbol at the end. This way you can see the statistics associated with the link, and more importantly, you can see which website it takes you to, among other things.
However, you can also easily expand the shortened link and check its full address by using free online services like Expand URL or CheckShortURL. These will provide you the required information about the link such as its full link, site which it redirects to and is the link safe or not.
For example, http://bit.ly/2NSzPeJ is a shortened URL, let's scan this URL on ExpandURL and see its test results.
So, This is how you can check whether a link is safe to click or not.
It is very important to be aware while surfing on the internet that does not hurry in clicking any unknown link. Also, you should make sure you have real-time antivirus software installed on your device that will stop any unknown program attempts to install.
One thing you have to keep in mind that the security of your device does not only depend on the antivirus software that you have installed but also on the awareness that you have about cybersecurity.
Stay informed, stay protected...!!!
Would these tips have been helpful to you? if you also have any questions then please mention in the comments section and I will get back to you and stay tuned with my blog to learn interesting things related to cybersecurity and hacking.