How to Test Suspicious Links Before Clicking Them

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Links can be compared to a mystery box: you never know what lies there until you open it. A wise person should treat links with caution. One never knows the rabbit hole a link could lead to. Caution is of utmost importance. Well, as an internet user, you can’t completely steer clear of links. You see them every day, and quite frankly, they’re enticing you to click. If you ever find a link suspicious, there are a few ways to test it:

Hover over hyperlinks

If you are dealing with a hyperlink, then hover the mouse cursor over the text to uncover the address. Then you can click later, if the address is legitimate. Note that phishing scams links use domain names which are similar to legitimate sites. Observance is the key to catching any frauds. For example, a phishing scam targeting this website may use something like www.latest-hacking-news.com, which appears similar to the real thing. It’s actually www.latesthackingnews.com. Note the differences.

Hovering over hyperlinks decodes where the link leads, and could therefore keep you well informed. The links you see are actually encoded.

Say this link, for example. In HTML code, it looks something like this:  <a href= “https://latesthackingnews.com”>this link</a>.  If I wanted to practice my deceit skills, I could display a link which says: Click this to visit facebook! Truth is, it doesn’t actually take you to Facebook. Try hovering the cursor over it to uncover the true address.

Lengthen shortened URLs

Certain URLs you come across can be seen as a shortened version. Some shortened URLs are legitimate; others are trying to disguise where they come from and what they may hold. Shortened URLs aren’t trustworthy, so ensure pass them though a service like CheckShortURL or Unshorten.It! , in order to lengthen it and uncover the original URL. CheckShortURL is an expand link facility: it allows you to retrieve the original URL from a shortened link before clicking on it and visiting the destination. It provides furthermore information about unshortened URL such as title, description, keywords and author of the page. It also checks if the original URL is on search engines, Twitter, and lets you know if the hidden link is safe or not.

Run links through a malware scanner

As a safety measure, any links you deem as suspicious can be passed through a scanner. An example is VirusTotal. Desktop links, phone links and email links can all be tested. Simply copy the link and paste in the search bar. If the link and its location contain shady stuff, it may be uncovered. Emphasis on “may”. Nothing is a hundred percent guaranteed.

Use a Virtual Machine

Suspicious links can be safely tested by creating a virtual machine. Consider options like VirtualBox or VMware. After making a snapshot of the VM in a good state, open the link. If malicious, only the VM will be affected. In that case, you can simply revert back to the old snapshot.

Testing links is a subject with no concrete answer. The above safety measures may provide some security, albeit just a little.

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Enjeck Mbeh Cleopatra

STEM enthusiast. Reader. Writer. Food lover. Programmer. Mad Scientist. Internet addict. Contact me at [email protected]

Enjeck Mbeh Cleopatra

STEM enthusiast. Reader. Writer. Food lover. Programmer. Mad Scientist. Internet addict. Contact me at [email protected]

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