CHECK WEBSITE LINKS / URL BEFORE CLICKING THEM IN EMAILS

Emails have become important part of our lives and many people take it very seriously if they forget to read any single Email because of any reason. Beside regular correspondences, people share different things in emails and it has become one of the fastest way to communicate with anyone and anytime. Because of this, hackers are targeting more innocent people than before via emails. How? Well let me tell you the story of my own.

How People Make Mistakes By Clicking Infected Links

Recently I received an email from my colleague, which was containing a URL / Link in it. The Email was from an Email ID which is of my colleague and there was nothing to worry about.

 

I clicked the link and guess what, since I was using my Office PC (which is behind corporate firewalls), I immediately got a warning message that the page which I am trying to open contains a Trojan (virus).
I was shocked to see that message and was thinking wonder what would happen if I was at home and using my Laptop. I then immediately called my colleague and asked her about the email which she sent. To my surprise, she said that her Yahoo account has got hacked and the hacker has sent an email to everyone in her address book (contacts) with the same link.

The moral of this story is, that even a computer geek like me can make a mistake and get trapped by hackers. These hackers are smart guys (of course) and they do invent new methods on daily bases to trap even people like me easily. This thing made me think for a while and I thought to explain in this article what each one of us should do whenever we see a link in an email.

How To Check Links / URL Before Clicking Them

Whenever you see a Link / URL in an email or anywhere, you shouldn’t click it blindly without actually verifying it. I know it may sound stupid and time consuming to verify / check each and every link in an email, but believe me, following such practice will only make you safe from the Internet Attacks (especially from Phishing). Beside having a Best Antivirus and Best Anti-spyware software installed, there are many tools (Malwarebytes, SuperAntiSpyware) which I always recommend to install on Windows whenever I talk about security of a PC.

When it comes to checking of links, WOT – Web Of Trust is an excellent browser add-on which protects your PC from Malicious websites in an Intelligent way.

But, all of us should also know the basics of the URLs / Links and learn how to protect ourselves without the use of any third party tools. Though it sounds difficult, but in actual it’s not. Let me explain you the reality of URLs / Links using some real examples, which should make it easy for you to understand and learn more about Links.

Example – 1 : Complete URL

When we see a complete URL of a website in an Email, for e.g. www.google.com, most of us clicks it, thinking that it would be safe. Behind any URL, there is a piece of CODE which makes it a clickable link. If the hacker changes the CODE, then that URL can take you on any website, regardless of the URL which you actually see in the Email. If you don’t believe me, click www.google.com and see how it will open Bing search web page.

In order to see which website is actually hidden behind such URLs, move your mouse cursor on the URL / Link (don’t click it) and the actual link will appear at the Bottom Left side of the Browser.

Example – 2 : Text Based Link

On the Websites or Emails, nowadays you will often find links which are in Text format. The text is converted into a Link by hiding the actual website URL behind it. Looking at those links you will never be able to identify which website will open after clicking it. Therefore before clicking, it’s recommended to always move mouse cursor on those Text Link (don’t click it) and the actual link will appear at the Bottom Left side of the Browser automatically.

Example -3 : Clickable Buttons

If you receive an email which looks like a genuine one and asks you to click any button to see more details, take my advice, don’t click any kind of buttons until unless you are 100% sure what you are clicking. In such emails, just move your mouse cursor on the Button (where it says click here or whatever) and after 1 or 2 seconds, the real website address will show up (as shown below).

What If The Website Itself Contains A Virus
There is a possibility, that the website link is good and you are confident enough to click the link, but the website which will open after you click, is it safe enough to browse? Take an example of the email which I gave at the beginning of the article. Since I received that email from my colleague and I was not knowing that her account has actually got hacked, I clicked the link. If I was at home, God knows what would have happened once that page opens on my Home PC. It’s a matter of seconds for such websites to download malicious stuff automatically on a PC and then you are at the mercy of the Hacker.

To avoid such thing, I will recommend to check / scan the links which you receive in emails for viruses before you click them. There are tons of websites which scans your link and advice if the website is safe enough to open / browse or not, but I find 2 of them quite useful.

Note: Before visiting below websites, open the emails which contain the link which you want to open, Right click the link and select Copy.

AVG Online Web Page Scanner

1. Open the AVG Online Web Page Scanner website and paste the copied address in the box.

2. Click the Check button to begin the scanning.

Note: If the website shows you an error message, try again by clicking at the Check button at the top of the page or simply remove the text which is written after .com in the URL / Link and then try again.

3. It will advise how safe the website really is. If it shows any kind of Threat warning message, then just avoid visiting the Website.

URL Void

1. Open the URLVoid website, paste the copied address in the box and then click Submit.

2. It will quickly scan the link (website) and will show you the result.
3. URLVoid website scans the link using many antivirus engines and if any of the engines find it suspicious, it’s then recommended not to open / visit that website.

Reality Of Fake URLs / Links In Emails Related To Adult Websites And Free Softwares

Many of us do receive Free Software and Saucy emails as well, and by Saucy I mean those emails which contain Adult / Porn / XXX links. Most of those Adult emails have Adult pictures as well, to make it more attractive, but I highly recommend everyone not to click such links especially when you receive it in your Emails. Clicking these links can redirect you to such websites which are fake or contains a virus. For example, when I clicked the link which I received in such email, it opened a Image hosting website.

People do such things in order to do the Marketing of their own blog / website. Many people send these emails with fake links, clicking it redirects you to their web pages, which will not contain anything which was related to the link. If you move your mouse cursor on such links, you may see that it contains a Short URL. (If you don’t know what are Shorted URLs, Read: What Are Shorten / Redirecting URLs – Things To Be Aware Of).

In order to hide the real identity of the website, people use Short URLs. By looking at those URLs, you will never be able to guess which website will open after clicking it. That’s why it’s necessary to know the real Website link (long URL) which is hidden behind these Shorten URLs before actually clicking on them. To do that, Right Click that Link and select Copy. Now visit any of the website which Reveals Hidden Website Links Behind Such Shorten URLs and then paste the link over there.

Once you get the hidden Long URL, copy it and then check how safe it really is on URLvoid or Avg website (as explained above).

Last Words

This is the reality of Fake Links in emails and it’s recommended not to click such links, until unless you are 100% sure what you are clicking. You never know how a malicious script can easily be installed in your PC without even your knowledge. Most of the time people get infected just because they visited Adult website or such a web pages which offer them Free Software to download. Once you open such a website, it offers their readers to download or install something in the browser, which will give access to the websites premium features. But Remember that, all those promises are fake like the website itself, all what you will get is a virus which screws your PC nicely.