Phishing scam through shortened urls

Phishing via email with shortened urls

Uniform Resource Locators—URLs to you and me—are of course web addresses used as valuable content sharing tool.  Now, it’s not uncommon to find a “shortened URL” in place of the longer links of yesteryear. But proceed with caution when clicking a shortened URL; phishing scams can be lurking within the link.

History of the Shortened URL

Created in 2002, TinyURL was the first URL shortener. Creator Kevin Gilberston’s idea was simple: plug in a long URL, such as the Google Maps address for the Empire State Building… /0/viewer ?gl=US&ie=UTF8&oe= UTF8&msa=0&mid= 1qqg24F8Al_Uq2 Bieu9cDHur_Cas&ll =40.748492%2C- 73.98569900000001&z=17

…and voila! TinyURL gives you just what it promises—a tiny URL—directing you to the exact same page (feel free to check the links!):

Gilbertson has stated that he wasn’t out to cash in, but simply was looking to solve a problem (such as the fact that in emails, URLs that couldn’t fit on a single line would often have an automatic break inserted into them, resulting in an error message when clicked). Little did he know, but his simple yet innovative creation was about to start a URL revolution. Soon, dozens of similar URL shortening websites began popping up.

URL shorteners really grew in popularity with the advent of Twitter in 2006. With tweets limited to a mere 140-characters (at the time), this posed a real problem when senders wanted to include a link that took up half or all of their character count. So of course, they used shortened URLs as a work-around.

TinyURL was the Twitter URL shortener of choice, until Bitly came along. Bitly recognized an opportunity to not just shorten URLs, but include analytics on the number of clicks the link received. This was a boon for marketers, and Twitter quickly switched over to Bitly links which now leads the market as the number one URL shortener (this hasn’t stopped others from getting into the game, however, such as Google’s goo.g! and YouTube’s

Pros of URl shorteners

  1. Attractive: Using URL Shorteners on online social media exactly started or became popular due to Twitter.  Because of character limit on Twitter, it was difficult for users to share long links. This was the only reason that made these URL shortening services more popular in a short span of time.
  2. Link Analytics: Now days, majority of URL shortening services provide a new feature, Tracking. For example, if we consider the case of Bitly, it provides link tracking feature which enables the user to track the user activity, number of clicks, geographical location of the user who clicked the link on the shortened URL.
  3. Customization: URL shortenings services also provide another feature that helps user to customize the shortened link. This will help to add a string as per as your choice

Cons of URL Shorteners

  1. Abuse: URL shortening services are a great source for spammers and hackers to get a hold of victim computer. They share a link and fool user into clicking the link. Thus, either setting up the virus in the victim computer or getting important user credentials through fake URL. It is very important to keep the following points in mind:
    • Always check the link before clicking it. The easiest way is to place your cursor on the link.
    • Do not click a link shared by unknown person. If a link is shared via email, carefully read the email to get any signs of spamming.
    • Do not share your important credentials like bank  details, social media user-id password on such shared links.
    • Due to such abuse of  url shortening services, many have been discontinued and it is very important to verify such urls.
  2. Dead link: If the shortening service that was used to shorten the url is discontinued, link will stop working. Thus making it a dead link.
  3. Blocking: Some social media platform do not accept shortened links. For example, Wikipedia do not accept shortened links.
  4. Privacy and security: Shortened url can redirect to spam or scam webpage.  Thus, breaching the privacy and security of the users.

Every service has Pros and Cons but its upto us how we use it. It is better to use the service wisely

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