Think Before You Click – Are Short Links Safe?
Short links, or links that have been condensed so they require fewer characters, have been around for a while. For those not already familiar with them, they take a link such as this https://www.bryley.com/2018/04/05/4-options-for-discarding-old-hardware-bryley-tips/, and turn it into this http://ow.ly/SEga50h2XWW. Typically you see them on social media platforms such as Twitter, where you have a fairly limited number of characters at your disposal, but they can be used pretty much anywhere.
While short links can certainly save space, they also present one very serious issue. You can’t see where they are going to take you. If you use our example above, simply by looking at the original link, which displays the full URL it is pointing to, you can determine that you are going to end up at Bryley.com. Furthermore, you can see it will take you to a page discussing how to dispose of old hardware.
On the other hand, the short link shown above points to the same page, but it would be impossible to know that just by looking at it. It doesn’t even given an indication of what site you are going to end up on if you click on it, never mind what page.
This poses a security risk. If you see a short link that has been posted by someone you trust and you already have a sense of where it is going to take you then it is probably safe to click on it. But what if you can’t verify the source a link came from, or where it is going to take you? In that case, you should verify the destination of the link before you click on it.
Fortunately, there are several services online which will tell you exactly where a short link is going to take you if you click on it. For instance, the website CheckShortURL.com will check any short link you happen to stumble upon. All you have to do is copy and paste the short link into their utility (see image below).
After you click “expand” you will be presented with a page that looks like this:
Not only does this indicate where the short link is going to take you, but it lists several services which will check to see if any malicious content has been found at that location.
By taking this extra step, you are being proactive! Avoiding a cybersecurity breach such as a ransomware attack will save you a lot of headaches, time and money.