The Internet is made up of links; we wouldn’t browse too much if we manually had to type every URL into the browser. However, many links you come across aren’t safe — from ad-filled pages to those that want to steal your login credentials, you need to be diligent at all times online. Here are four quick questions you can ask yourself whenever a link seems suspect.
1. Where did I find this link? If you saw a link about a free giveaway on MakeUseOf, you know it’s legitimate. But that flashing advertisement on a video website letting you know that you could win 100 iPhones probably should be avoided.
2. What am I expecting to find on the other side? A link that claims to go to your bank, Facebook, or some other sensitive site should be treated with caution. Likewise, if you’re expecting to find pirated software or illicit content, be prepared for a site that might be unsafe.
3. What does the URL look like? Know how to investigate a URL’s structure. Don’t take the anchor text (the highlighted text on a page that goes to the link) at face value; mouse over the link and see what URL is displayed in the bottom-left of your browser. If it looks different from what you were expecting, starts with some form of “ad” or “redirect”, or looks like it’s going to PayPal, stay away. Use a link expander if the URL is shortened to disguise itself.
4. What do others think of this link? Install an antivirus extension in your browser that will alert you of unsafe links, like WOT (Web of Trust). If you’re really stumped, you don’t have to guess; get help from the experts!
What methods do you use to stay safe from rogue links? I’m looking forward to hearing your tips in the comments!
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