We often hear about phishing scams where a hacker will attempt to create a situation where an unsuspecting victim will clink on a link or enter their information. But what are these links? How do you know that a link contains malware or will attempt to steal your information? Could one of your friends pass a link to you which will get your computer destroyed? Here are a few tips for making sure that your don’t have to worry as much about suspicious links.
First, use context to decide whether or not a link might lead to some malware. For example, if you get an email from your friend with no text in the body of the message and nothing but a link saying “click me for this cool thing”, you should probably not click that link. Someone is trying to trick you by pretending that the link comes from a trusted source. But this is a fairly obvious situation. The more competent the scammer, the more that they will do to convince you that the link is coming from a trusted source. If they are impersonating a business, they will completely replicate the home page, logo, and appearance of the trusted business. If they are pretending to be a friend or relative, they might put something in the message to make it sound more realistic.
But regardless of contextual clues, there are ways to find out if a link is safe. Normally, you can hover over a link and find out if it has been altered. What appears to be a link to a trusted webpage could really be a link which has been disguised to appear innocuous. In this case, finding out where the link really goes is a great way to get some more information.
Additionally, there are sites which can evaluate links. Similar to an antivirus scan, they can compare the site to a blacklist, or evaluate some of the actions that clicking the link might perform. Using a website or service like this can be one of the best tools you have if you absolutely must find out what is behind a somewhat suspicious link. This can also help you when a link has been shortened or otherwise obfuscated.
At the end of the day, you should always be wary when browsing the internet or using computers. If you start sending requests to non trusted servers, you have to be aware that there is the potential for you to be infected by malware. Always ensure that your computer is protected to the best of your ability, and if it gets infected, get the malware off quickly.