8 Ways To Make Sure A Link Is Safe Before You Click It

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virus intro   8 Ways To Make Sure A Link Is Safe Before You Click ItIn the anonymity of the web, lie all the dangers. Hyperlinks as we all know are the strands that make up the web. But just like the spiders, the digital web can trap the unsuspecting. Even the more knowledgeable among us click on links which are potentially harmful. You really cannot control you clicking, because that’s how the whole business of browsing happens.

What you can control is making sure that the link or webpage you are clicking through to is as safe as a mother’s lap, and not a malware infested demon lying in wait.

My friend Aaron recently told you how to browse safely with your own Internet bodyguard called WOT. I would say it is a must install browser extension. But what are the other secure browsing tools out there? Do click these links that take you to eight ways to ensure that a link is safe.

Google Safe Browsing Diagnostic

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The Google Safe Browsing Diagnostic tool was released quite a few years back. The advisory tool from Google gives you a detailed report on domains and web links. You can trust Google for its comprehensiveness because its Safe Browsing API is a part of the search engine infrastructure. To use the tool, you have to append the site’s URL at the end of the http://www.google.com/safebrowsing/diagnostic?site=. The report gives you four points of information. Do note that all information available with Google only goes back historically over the last ninety days.

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URL Void

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URLVoid is a web reputation scanner that analyzes a website address with multiple reputation engines (around 30) and domains blacklists, such as Google SafeBrowsing, Norton SafeWeb and MyWOT to detect any potentially dangerous website. You have to manually insert a link and scan the domain in question. URLVoid lists the positive or negative detection status against the engines used. You can check the threat log for more details as supplied by each engine.

UnMask Parasites

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Unmask Parasites as the name suggests is a simple security tool that scans a site and lets you know if it is carrying spam links, malicious scripts, or redirects. Very often, websites are hijacked and malicious code inserted even without the knowledge of the webmaster. Unmask Parasites downloads the link (webpage) you give it, analyzes its HTML code, especially external links, iframes, and JavaScript’s. Webmasters can do this manually too by looking into their own code, but that’s laborious. UnMask Parasites one-click audit is a speedier check.

PhishTank

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For an experienced web surfer, phishing is relatively easy to detect with a glance at the URL. Banks and other sensitive sites also usually implement anti-phishing measures. But even then it pays to be careful. One of the ways is to use the index of blacklisted phishing sites maintained at PhishTank. You can also submit your own suspects to the list. Do remember that PhishTank is not a security tool as such, but more of an informational aid. Founded by OpenDNS, PhishTank is a free service.

Also read:

Dr.Web Anti-Virus Link Checker

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Dr. Web Anti-Virus Link Checker is a browser add-on for both Chrome and Firefox, and also Opera and IE. It uses the Dr.Web online anti-virus engine to scan a download link for malicious content. It also automatically scans downloaded content and performs an automatic scan on all Facebook, Vk.com, Google+ Social Network links. It works from the right-click context menu of the browser on any link. The scan report tells you if the link if clean or compromised. The service has been there since 2003, and as it is still going strong with constant updates, it says something about its trustworthiness.

I did a review of the Firefox add-on back in 2009 – Dr.Web LinkChecker – Scan Files Before Download (Firefox)

UnShorten.it

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Short URLs are all over the web these days. There is just one problem – you don’t really know what’s hiding behind that almost undecipherable short URL. You can use a short URL expander, but how do you know that the long-form of the URL itself is safe. UnShorten.it combines both functions as it expands the short URL and also sends it through the scanners of WOT (Web of Trust) to give you the trustworthiness scorecard. Paste your short URL and the service returns the direct URL of the destination website, its description, and its WOT ratings along with a thumbnail preview of the target website. Unshorten.it also gives you browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox.

VirusTotal

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VirusTotal give you two tools – an upload tool with which you can scan suspicious files, and a link scanner for verifying a site before you click through to it. VirusTotal also uses a series of anti-virus engines, website scanners, file and URL analysis tools that analyze the link and give you a detailed report – for instance, some engines will display additional information explicitly stating whether a given URL belongs to a particular botnet. These tools are updated every 15 minutes.

Comodo Site Inspector

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Some people have objections against the Comodo firewall for its seeming complexity. No such complaints exist for the Comodo Site Inspector…it is as simple as they come. The online scanner is a free malware and vulnerability detector which you can use to check out a single URL or webmasters can use to set up recurring, daily checks on any 3 pages of a domain. The check takes a little amount of time because apparently Comodo downloads all specified pages and runs them in a sandboxed browser environment.

These eight URL scanners represent a small but important number of link checkers which can form another barrier of safety. I have avoided browser toolbars because quite a few of our readers have been allergic to them, and personally I am too. We have a whole archive of posts on security tips when it comes to safer browsing. Here are samples of a few:

Which is your preferred URL scanner? Do you really on common sense, a browser based tool, or your own anti-virus for protection from unsafe links?

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39 Comments - Write a Comment

Reply

Aditya Roy

WOT?

Tug Ricks

I think the point of the article was to point out the other options available.

Saikat Basu

Precisely.

Reply

Aditya Roy

WOT??

barney

WOT is a crowd-sourced evaluation subject to human error and greed. It is based upon opinion and is not a reliable malware indication system.

Saikat Basu

This is what WOT says though –

When someone first hears about the concept behind WOT, their first objection is that someone could easily spam the system with tons of ratings and rate down their competitors or otherwise manipulate reputations, but that’s not true. In order to keep ratings more reliable, the system tracks each user’s rating behavior before deciding how much it trusts the user. WOT applies sophisticated algorithms to detect and eliminate any manipulation of reputation.

barney

That may be true now – I certainly hope it is – but it was not true when I first encountered WOT several years ago. Those first impressions are kind hard to overcome. And I know of a few sites who were damaged because of the then policy. If they’ve changed, great, but at that time they had no policy for redress.

Saikat Basu

I am pretty sure they have it now. It always pays to double-check everything on the web. After all, everything is an algorithm :)

Tug Ricks

I’m not doubting that a poor WOT score could potentially harm the success of a website, but in the grand scheme of things, how many people actually use it?

barney

Grand scheme? If you’re trying to make money on the web with honest effort, then WOT was (maybe not now) anathema, At that time, at least, WOT destroyed a few sites of which I knew. Bad business.

Tug Ricks

I was just saying that not that many people use the service when considering the total number of people online. Do you think WOT single-handedly ruined those websites?

Reply

jnaveenj

WOT is also very useful.

Reply

Michael Teague

WOT

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idiots

Yeah, you could go through all that trouble, or you could just install Waterfox, adblock, and no script. Have any descent antivirus installed, like Microsoft Security Essentials would be the bare minimum and browse all you want. Noscript is a hassle at 1st, but once you get it down it’s pretty easy to just move your mouse over to the left and enable the scripts. You should know what sites are bad, and if they are bad, your antivirus will catch them.

Tug Ricks

I agree that common sense browsing can help to avoid a lot of the trouble that people get into. Do people really think they can download Russian porn with complete impunity? :)

Reply

Kaashif Haja

I was searching for this website – UnShorten.it
Thanks!

Reply

Rob Hindle

I appreciate that all these tools provide choice and there are some differences in how they work. Interesting, but do I need them?
To put it another way: if I’m using Norton Internet Security and OpenDNS do I need any of these other tools or are they just duplicating functionality I already have?

(Comodo to automatically alert me if my own site has been hacked being a possible exception)

Reply

Petey Pabler

I prefer VirusTotal b/c it is two things in one and hasn’t failed me yet…

Naveen Kumar

But it does not all ways does it………………….

Reply

Saurabh Kumar

ya these are other alternatives……… or options…….. but things to be knows. :)

Reply

Andrea Kosteli?

really great article

Reply

Elijah Swartz

Another option not listed above is the McAfee SiteAdvisor.

Saikat Basu

We have covered it repeatedly. I have linked to some previous posts related to this topic of online security where McAfee SiteAdvisor has been given its due place :)

Elijah Swartz

Ok. I haven’t seen ‘every’ article every written on this site :P. I didn’t see it mentioned in the article, so I thought I’d mention it.

What’s your personal favorite extensions/sites?

Saikat Basu

I use WOT a lot, but I always double-check (at times, triple check) with other sites.

Reply

jrasulev

Dr. Web Anti-Virus Link Checker is a good tool, though this anti-virus vendor is not very famous in the world like its compatriot Kaspersky. But the best way to secure web surf is using tools like sand-box or Noscript, or use DNS services from Symantec, Open DNS and Comodo DNS

Reply

Noman Fayez

WOT

Reply

Efi Dreyshner

Anubis (:

Reply

Seishun Kyosoukyoku

WOT ?

Reply

josemon maliakal

url shortening is also a source for money, so people are interested in it

Saikat Basu

Yes, a lot of affiliate links and spurious sites are hidden behind shortened links, so it always pays to check them first.

Reply

Asriel Allolinggi

Nice Info dear Admin.
Really Helpful for me..:-)

Reply

Dr Ramraj

like

Reply

softwarsecurity

thanks for sharing

Reply

John E. Boy

I like the program Trafficlight by BitDefender. I have the beta version but it seems to be running very well. Check it out if you get a chance.

Saikat Basu

Thanks for the recommendation. Will check it out in detail.

Reply

Raman Bathina

The article covers most of the link scanners and i also happy because 2 months back i have posted 2 sites out of these 8 sites in my blog.

Reply

SusanaLaoz

I am using McAfee internet security and it works fine to me, it pops up a window when you visit a page McAfee has not stored as safe and you can choose what to do. I use virus total too, amazing free tool

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