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Someone sent you a link. It looks okay… but is it really? Whether that person was a friend or a stranger, if it’s a link you weren’t expecting, you shouldn’t really click it.

Email, SMS, Facebook, Twitter or some other social network or collaboration tool… whatever you’re using, there’s an opportunity for scammers and spammers to send you links. Most of the time they’re probably safe. But when they’re not, disaster can strike.

One of the quickest-growing security issues these days is ransomware, which is often spread by people unwittingly clicking dangerous links. Malware and phishing sites are also major risks.

While you should be vigilant about all of your online activities, it doesn’t hurt to have a little help.

What a Link Checker Should Do

There are two types of URL.

  1. A standard-length URL, starting www, followed by the website name, and ending with .com or some other top-level domain What URL Domain Extensions Stand For and Why They Are Needed What URL Domain Extensions Stand For and Why They Are Needed There's a lot more to the internet that just .com, .org, and .net sites. The world of top-level domains exploded a few years ago. But what is a TLD? Let's find out. Read More .
  2. A shortened URL How to Peek at Shortened URLs Without Clicking on Them How to Peek at Shortened URLs Without Clicking on Them Shortened URLs are convenient for social media, but can be extremely risky because you can't see where they lead. Here are a few ways to peek without clicking! Read More , such as goo.gl/V4jVrx.

It doesn’t matter whether the link you received is a standard-length URL or shortened. If it is dangerous in any way, the link checking tool should alert you to this. If the links are going to take you to a compromised website, the link checker highlight this immediately. Similarly, direct links to malware, ransomware and other risks should be reported by these tools.

Several sites are available to help you uncover the truth about those dodgy links. The following five sites are all favorites, but we’d advise checking more than one at any given time, to help you get the best results from your inquiries.

1. AVG Threatlabs

A top choice for checking potentially unsafe links, AVG Threatlabs scans links on a website for malware and other threats. All you need to do is enter the URL, and wait for the results.

5 Quick Sites That Let You Check if Links Are Safe muo security linkchecking avg

Of course, AVG is a massive name in online security, and their site offers an extension of this reputation. There is a feeling that you can trust the results, and by scrolling down slightly, you’ll find a rogues’ gallery of sites that didn’t do so well.

This list is updated weekly, with the top 5 sites with the most malware detections named and shamed on the AVG Threatlabs site. It’s not a list you would hope to find any of your favorite websites on, is it?

2. Kaspersky VirusDesk

If you prefer to get your security recommendations from the world-famous Kaspersky security firm (although you might not Is Kaspersky Software a Tool of the Russian Government? Is Kaspersky Software a Tool of the Russian Government? The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has banned the use of Kaspersky security software on federal computers. Understandably, people are worried - but is Kaspersky really in bed with the Russian government? Read More ), you should try their VirusDesk. This is a dual-purpose tool that not only checks links to potentially dodgy websites, it accepts uploads of suspicious files. Handily, it offers both of these features via a dedicated link pasting/drag-and-drop field.

5 Quick Sites That Let You Check if Links Are Safe muo security linkchecking kaspersky

To use Kaspersky VirusDesk for link checking, enter the URL and click Scan. You’ll be quickly informed whether the target URL is safe or not. If you have reason to disagree with a “safe” result, you can click the “I disagree with the scan results” button. This will prompt the Kaspersky researchers to find out more. They’ll let you know of their findings by email if you leave your address.

3. ScanURL

Another you should look at us ScanURL, an independent website that takes your link queries submissions seriously via a secure HTTPS connection What Is HTTPS & How To Enable Secure Connections Per Default What Is HTTPS & How To Enable Secure Connections Per Default Security concerns are spreading far and wide and have reached the forefront of most everybody's mind. Terms like antivirus or firewall are no longer strange vocabulary and are not only understood, but also used by... Read More . Although the link submission screen is ad-supported, the results are good.

5 Quick Sites That Let You Check if Links Are Safe muo security linkchecking scanurl

ScanURL polls Google Safe Browsing, PhishTank, and Web of Trust (who are rebuilding their reputation You Should Uninstall Web of Trust Right Now You Should Uninstall Web of Trust Right Now You should consider uninstalling WOT right now. Why? Because Web of Trust has been caught collecting and selling user data. Even worse, this data hasn't always been successfully anonymized. Read More ), as well as providing information about the queried site’s Whois record. The returned results will instantly indicate whether you should visit the site, and are accompanied by a ScanURL recommendation. If the site is dangerous, you’ll naturally be told to avoid it.

A number of sites (some of which are in this list) and tools are checked by ScanURL as it collates the results. Once the ScanURL result page has loaded, a permanent URL is applied. You can copy and paste this to share with friends, family, or the otherwise concerned so they can refer to it. Handy!

4. PhishTank

Instead of focusing on malware, PhishTank instead alerts you to phishing sites. But the principle is the same. Once you enter a URL that you suspect of harboring a phishing operation How to Spot a Phishing Email How to Spot a Phishing Email Catching a phishing email is tough! Scammers pose as PayPal or Amazon, trying to steal your password and credit card information, are their deception is almost perfect. We show you how to spot the fraud. Read More , PhishTank will check it out. If the link is already “in the tank” then you’ll get instant results. Otherwise, you’ll get a tracking number. Sadly, it’s not as simple to check a phishing link as it is to automatically check some malware links…

5 Quick Sites That Let You Check if Links Are Safe muo security linkchecking phishtank

Concerned about sites that might con you into divulging personal data? If you have any knowledge of identity theft, then you’ll know much of this occurs thanks to phishing operations. PhishTank is always worth a visit when checking concerning links.

If you’re feeling charitable, meanwhile, you can get stuck in and contribute to the site. Other links that have been submitted can be verified. So, if you have the time, why not?

5. Google Transparency Report

They might not be the world’s most privacy-conscious company Google Just Banned This Privacy Tool: How to Use Disconnect Google Just Banned This Privacy Tool: How to Use Disconnect Disconnect can shield users against invisible tracking tools, while increasing consumer awareness on surreptitious data-collection methods. It also functions as an anti-malware tool. So why has Google banned it from the Play Store? Read More , but Google does offer a useful link checking service. Their Transparency Report service offers a standard field into which you can enter the URL you’re concerned about. A few seconds later, the results — captured by Google’s web crawlers — will tell you if the site can be trusted.

5 Quick Sites That Let You Check if Links Are Safe muo security linkchecking google

Along with malware, Google Transparency Report will alert you to phishing risks. Concerned about accidentally giving your personal information away? Phishing is potentially a greater concern than malware, so it makes sense to be sure that the site you’re planning on visiting isn’t about to steal your identity.

Five Great Link Checkers: Which Do You Use?

There are good link checkers and bad ones. Be sure when searching for these tools that you’re landing on pages that search for security risks, rather than ones that check whether a website has any broken links. They’re not what you’re looking for Check Bad Links On Your Site Automatically With Linkchecker Check Bad Links On Your Site Automatically With Linkchecker When it comes to keeping your website or your blog healthy and strong in search engine listings, regularly checking for broken or otherwise bad links on your website is a very good idea. Not only... Read More !

What you need to use are tools that detect malware risks, phishing risks, and deliver results that you can share with others. We believe these five sites should deliver the confirmation you need when checking those potentially dodgy links:

  • AVG Threatlabs
  • Kaspersky VirusDesk
  • ScanURL
  • PhishTank
  • Google Transparency Report

However, we’re willing to add to the list. Do you have a link checking tool you want to share with us? Leave a comment. And if you’ve ever been caught out by a dangerous link, and lost data because of it, we want to know about it.

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  1. Greg Pocha
    November 1, 2016 at 11:11 pm

    Online Link Scan ... VERY INACCURATE! I checked my website and the information was all related to my old web host. Since I closed and transferred my website to a new host awhile back, they scanned old information. Needless to say, I couldn't be less impressed.

  2. Bombay Velvet box office collection
    April 25, 2015 at 5:41 pm

    i think avast online security has all features to protect from such harmful sites

  3. blackwatertown
    January 11, 2010 at 4:30 am

    Thanks for the resources you've put together on this.

  4. Pix Place
    January 11, 2010 at 2:55 am

    Firefox NoScript FlashBlock WoT Safety on The Interwebz

  5. dd
    January 10, 2010 at 1:06 pm

    There is also:

    http://sucuri.net/?page=tools&title=check-url

    Which works with short URLs, to show the real one and if they are safe..

    • Jessica Cam Wong
      January 11, 2010 at 11:13 am

      Thanks! I tried it and it worked great! I might be able to add it to the list soon.

      • Jessica Cam Wong
        January 11, 2010 at 11:50 am

        Actually, I can't re-edit it but thank you for the suggestion anyway! I like how sucuri scans shortened links for safety through several engines such as SiteAdvisor and Google's SafeBrowsing. It's a neat concept.

    • Jack
      April 28, 2016 at 7:17 am

      Sucuri, you are known for spamming your urls everywhere. How more low can you drop...

  6. mathmom
    January 10, 2010 at 8:42 am

    Just a note: The Online Link Scan site reports seriall.com as safe. (I was trying to see what an unsafe site would look like.)

    • Jessica Cam Wong
      January 11, 2010 at 11:08 am

      I see what you're saying. Both McAfee and Norton have the red Warning/Unsafe sticker for seriall.com, so I guess the beauty of having several link-scanning resources is knowing generally that a site is a no-go.

  7. Basil
    January 10, 2010 at 3:55 am

    There is also http://www.uptimekeeper.com that checks web pages for availability and malicious contents.

    • Jessica Cam Wong
      January 11, 2010 at 10:59 am

      Hmm, this website wouldn't load for me.

  8. Kroon78
    January 9, 2010 at 10:24 am

    Online Link scan seemed to work no problem. I laugh at the thought of disproving one of these services would require one to become compromised lol.

  9. craig kensek
    January 8, 2010 at 8:36 am

    AVG LinkScanner is free for home use. It's included with many of AVG's products but can be downloaded and used separately. http://www.linkscanner.avg.com is the site to learn about and download it. Unlike many other products, it provides real time safe surf protection. Many other products rely on a database and trust. 60% of threats on hacked websites around around for less than a day. So the real time aspect is critical.

    • Jessica Cam Wong
      January 11, 2010 at 10:40 am

      I actually do use and recommend AVG's LinkScanner, but this list could be for people who don't have AVG as their Anti-virus. I do agree with your point that constantly-updating AV and browser addons offer better real-time protection, so you can count on updated reviews.

      • craig kensek
        January 11, 2010 at 10:45 am

        Thanks for clarifying! The important thing for people to note is that they the LinkScanner technology is both part of AVG's SW but can be downloaded separately and works with most home security sw

  10. Saad
    January 7, 2010 at 11:27 pm

    I prefer MyWot though :-)

    • craig kensek
      January 10, 2010 at 10:33 pm

      Is MyWot real-time? If a "good" web site is hacked 10 minutes before you click on it, what will MyWot say about it? LinkScanner will check in real time what you are trying to click on.

  11. Sacramento Photographer
    January 7, 2010 at 5:48 pm

    This is a good resource! Thanks for putting together the compilation.

    • Jessica Cam Wong
      January 11, 2010 at 10:32 am

      No problem. I figured that a list of link-scanning web apps would come in handy after several of my friends' IM accounts were hacked and thus, they would send me random links that I know they would not just advertise (the first screenshot is proof).