Is That Email Web Link Safe?

By Eric Andring, Information Security Officer, Bell State Bank & Trust

How you can tell if a Web link is safe without clicking on it? You might have purchased the best antivirus and malware tools available for your PC or Smartphone, but there is still an element that can cause you a lot of trouble: that unsafe link you are unsure about that could potentially compromise your system or attempt to steal your identity.

Unsafe links usually appear to be shortcuts to special deals or to shocking news stories, or they may use scare tactics within email messages to get you to click on a button or link.

Some email scare tactics are listed below:

  • Failed Bank Transfer – click on this link to “manage” your account.
  • We suspect an unauthorized transaction on your account. (click on this link to view the transaction)
  • Your order was processed. Your bank account will be charged $###.##. (click on this link to view your order)

These types of links are usually designed to steal your personal information or hijack your system. You may also encounter unsafe links within website ads and search results.

To help you avoid these unsafe links, you can use the following link-scanning tips and tools to check suspicious links. All of these tools are free, quick, and don’t require you to download anything to your system.

Hover before you click

Sometimes a link masks the actual website to which it links. If you hover over a link without clicking it, you’ll notice the full URL of the link’s destination in a lower corner of your browser. For example, both of the links below connect you to our website, but you wouldn’t know that without hovering:

Click here to see the status of your order

http://www.worldsbestcookies.com/

Validate the message or simply delete it

In most cases, the best approach to dealing with suspicious messages containing links is to simply delete them. If you are uncertain about an email you received from a company, protect yourself by going directly to the company’s website or contacting the company directly via phone rather than using a link provided in the email.

Use a Web Link Scanner tool

Many antivirus products check website link safety before allowing access to view a website.

For systems that do not have a built-in website safety feature, a free Link Scanner tool can be used. Link scanners are websites that allow you to enter the website URL of a suspicious link and check it for safety concerns. There are many free and reliable link scanners available. Some of these tools use multiple scanning engines to determine the safety of the website URLs.

Here are a few URL link scanners that work well:

  • URLVoid
  • Online Link Scan
  • McAfee SiteAdvisor

These tools are not 100% accurate all of the time but usually give you an acceptable level of assurance that the website you want to visit is safe or unsafe.

To learn more about how you can protect yourself on-line, see the additional resources below:

  • The Federal Trade Commission sponsors a website called www.onguardonline.gov. This website provides practical tips from the federal government and the technology industry to help you be on guard against Internet fraud, secure your computer, and protect your personal information.
  • Consumer Federation of America’s website contains helpful consumer protection tips on topics such as identify theft. Visit http://www.consumerfed.org/consumer-privacy/fraud.
  • The Department of Homeland Security provides Cybersecurity tips and best practices. Visit http://www.dhs.gov.

 

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