How some digital marketers use URL shorteners in a negative way?
In recent years, URL shorteners have become increasingly popular among digital marketers. While they can be a useful tool for reducing the length of long, unsightly web addresses, some shady individuals are using them for less than reputable purposes. This article delves into how some digital marketers use URL shorteners in a negative way, which can have costly effects on unwitting victims.
Risks of Using URL Shorteners
URL shortening is a technique that generates a shorter, more user-friendly hyperlink that re-directs users to the website or web page. While it has clear benefits for users, it also comes with tremendous risks. It's worrying that the primary benefit of a URL shortener can be twisted and used maliciously.
By disguising the true destination of a link, dirty marketers can trick users into clicking on links that lead to malicious websites or content. This can be especially dangerous if the shortened link is posted on a social media site where it can easily be shared with a massive number of people who are less likely to be aware of the potential risks.
Here is a list of insidious ways shady digital marketers use URL shorteners to scam people:
1. URL shorteners are used to spread malware
Malware is a term used to describe malicious software. It's designed to damage or disable computers, and can be spread through web links, email attachments, downloads, or USB drives. Malware can also be used to steal personal information, such as passwords and credit card numbers. Some types of malware include viruses, worms, Trojans, and spyware.
By disguising a malicious link as a shortened URL, cybercriminals can trick unsuspecting users into clicking on it. This click can then trigger the download of malware or redirect the user to a malicious website.
Once it has infected a computer, it can delete files, steal information, and even render the machine unusable. In short, malware is a serious threat to both individuals and businesses alike.
2. URL shorteners are used to phish for login credentials
URL shorteners are commonly used in phishing scams, where cybercriminals attempt to collect personal information from victims by masquerading as a legitimate website or company.
Phishing is a type of online fraud that occurs when cybercriminals pose as legitimate businesses or organizations to trick individuals into providing personal information, such as passwords or credit card numbers. Phishing attacks can come in the form of emails, text messages, pop-up ads, or hyperlinks.
Most phishing attacks are carried out by email. The attacker will send an email that appears to be from a legitimate organization, such as a bank or credit card company. The email will typically contain a link that takes the recipient to a fake website that looks identical to the legitimate site. The goal is to get the recipient to enter personal information on the fake site so the scammer can steal the victim's identity or sell the information to the highest bidder.
3. URL shorteners are used to activate ransomware
Ransomware is a malicious software that locks up your computer or device and demands a ransom to unlock it. Once ransomware gets into your computer system, it will encrypt your files and make them inaccessible. You will see a message demanding a ransom in order to get your files back.
Ransomware is a serious threat because it can lead to the loss of important data. The cybercriminals may even blackmail you if they see incriminating information or scandalous videos.
Ransomware attacks are becoming increasingly common, with businesses and individuals alike being targeted. Cybercriminals use URL shortening services to shrink and cloak a suspicious destination, which is actually ransomware. The short link is used to distribute the ransomware that encrypts files on your computer and demand a ransom for the decryption key.
While some ransomware infections can be removed without having to pay the ransom, in many cases, the only way to regain access to your data is to pay up - and it's not cheap! To prevent this costly mistake, it's important to have adequate backup and security measures in place to protect yourself from these types of attacks.
4. URL shorteners can be used to spread spam
Some digital marketers will do anything to make money off of you clicking on ads. So, they found a way to use URL shortening services to direct you to advertising websites. Every click earns them money.
Some spammers even create their own URL shortening services and offer it as a make money online scheme. When someone clicks on the shortened URL, they'll be taken to an intermediate page where they'll see an ad before being redirected to the final destination. People earn a commission for every click that comes through their shortened URL.
Ways to Protect Yourself Against Malicious URL Shortener Schemes and Scams
URL shorteners are handy tools that allow you to turn a long URL into a shorter, more manageable one. However, these shortened URLs can be abused and used to disguise malicious links and scam users.
Here are some ways you can protect yourself:
- Check the URL before clicking on it. If the URL looks suspicious or has an unfamiliar domain, don't click on it.
- Hover over the URL to see where it will take you before clicking on it. Again, if the destination looks suspicious, don't click on the link.
- Check the spelling of the website address. Misspellings are red flags. By simply changing one letter in the URL, the fake website may be difficult to spot at first glance. If you are paying attention, you can avoid becoming a victim of cybercrime.
- If you must use shortened links, use reputable URL shortening service providers that use additional security by scanning links for malware and phishing attempts.
- Cybersecurity experts advise against clicking on any shortened URL that you are not familiar with.
- If you get suspicious emails from your bank or credit card company asking for personal and financial information, check with the bank first before clicking on links.
- Instead of clicking links, go directly to the legitimate sites by manually typing the URL.
- Make sure that the sites you are visiting have valid encryption certificates (look for the green lock icon on the address bar of your browser). If the site is unsecured, do not provide any personal information or login details.
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