Is the link in that email legitimate? Whether sent by a friend or a stranger, it’s unwise to click links without knowing where they take you.
One of the quickest-growing security issues these days is ransomware, which is often spread by people unwittingly clicking dangerous links in emails, social networks, messengers, and other collaboration tools. Malware and phishing sites are also major risks.
While you should be vigilant about all your online activities, it doesn’t hurt to have a little help. Here are several tools to check if a link is safe.
What a Link Checker Should Do
There are two types of URLs:
- A standard-length URL, starting www, followed by the website name, and ending with .com or some other top-level domain.
- A shortened URL, 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 will highlight this immediately. Similarly, direct links to malware, ransomware and other risks should be reported by these tools.
The following sites will help you uncover the truth about those dodgy links. Check more than one at any given time to give you the best results.
If you prefer to get your security recommendations from the world-famous Kaspersky security firm, you should try 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 features via a dedicated link pasting/drag-and-drop field.
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.
2. Check Links With ScanURL
Another you should look at us ScanURL, an independent website that takes your link queries submissions seriously via a secure HTTPS connection. Although the link submission screen is ad-supported, the results are good.
ScanURL polls Google Safe Browsing, PhishTank, and Web of Trust and provides 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.
Avoid the site if the results list it as dangerous.
Several sites (including some 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 for them to refer to. Handy!
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, 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…
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.
Feeling charitable? Anyone can contribute to the site and verify links that have been submitted by other users.
They might not be the world’s most privacy-conscious company, 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.
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.
5. Use VirusTotal Safe Link Checker
Offering a browser-based multi-function scanning tool, VirusTotal “analyzes suspicious files and URLs to detect types of malware.” The results of the scans are then shared with the online security community.
A simple tool that will give you instant results, VirusTotal also offers an Android and Windows app.
For developers, VirusTotal also offers public and private APIs. While limited to non-commercial projects, these can be used to create your own file and link scanning tool on your website.
Antivirus giant Norton has also produced a safe link checker, which typically scans a site for malware. Using a tool provided by a company with a reputation like Norton’s is a smart move. Better still, Norton Safe Web even offers two further tools.
One is Norton Safe Search Extension, a Chrome extension that adds quick safe search functionality to your browser. Every search you run in the browser will display results that have been checked by Norton. You can also install a Norton home page extension for the complete Norton-safety experience.
7. Find Out If a Link Is Safe With URLVoid
Finally, there’s URLVoid, a tool to help you “detect potentially malicious websites.” As with the other tools, simply input the suspect URL and wait for the site to check it. You’ll find information about the URL and its history, any black ticks against it, and where the site is based if that information has been made public.
A list of services that URLVoid uses to generate its results is also displayed, with famous names including Avira, BitDefender, and PhishTank among them.
If you need to scan an IP address, URLVoid offers a companion service, IPVoid.
Which Link Checkers Do You Use?
Each of the link checkers listed here is safe to use and perfect for helping you stay safe online. These sites should deliver the confirmation you need when checking potentially dodgy links:
- Kaspersky VirusDesk
- Google Transparency Report
- Norton Safe Web
These sites will protect you from all manner of security threats distributed via web links, from malware and ransomware to spoof emails and websites attempting to phish your details.
It isn’t just dodgy links that you’ll find in a phishing email. Here’s how to spot a phishing email and avoid accidentally giving your personal data to cybercriminals.
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