How To Scan Shortened URLs Or Links For Viruses Before You Click It

Have you seen URLs such as http://bit.ly/gEX1Jc, or http://nblo.gs/fQJzo? These are called short URLs or shortened URLs and are now being widely used by most bloggers and even by non-commercial or commercialized websites over the Internet. Although there’s a great deal for bloggers and/or website owners in using this feature, it also exposes the end-users or readers to accidentally click URLs that contains malicious content such as malwares, viruses, infected files or even explicit contents. So how do we protect ourselves from? How do we scan first a certain website before we actually download the files or open that website?

First, why are most of the bloggers and website owners shortens their URL? There are actually reasons and advantages why we use shortened URLs. The top 3 reasons why this is commonly used are:

Short URL

Click Me!
When someone posts a shortened URL, it somehow gives the readers the “curious” look. It intimidates them, thinking what is this link for? What does it contain? Does it give an informative content? What happens when I click it? – These are just the common question that runs into someone’s mind when they see such links. Admit it, when you see something that says, “Don’t click me.” the more we tend to click it and we just can’t fight the urge. A shortened URL drives additional traffic for website owners because of the end-users’ curiosity of the link.

Twitter Marketing Strategy
Twitter, a micro-blogging social networking site, is yet another good and effective way to drive people to go and visit your website – especially if you’re website is an e-Commerce website. However, each post limits you to twit with a maximum of 140 characters including the spaces. Let us take this article for example the complete URL is http://www.eyes4tech.com/how-to-scan-shortened-urls-or-links-for-viruses-before-you-click-it – so if I post this, I will only have 48 characters left. I won’t be able to provide more description about the content. So by shortening it, I can get more space to put in some more descriptive information.

SMS-ing your link
The same logic explanation goes out when you wanted to send this URL to other people through SMS. And it will be tedious on your part to type the whole link and of course it will cost you more.

Although, it gives a great deal to bloggers like Eyes4Tech, this feature is also being used by other websites that contains malicious contents. There are actually plugins available out there that can be added to your browsers but what if the case is you don’t want these because it adds up and eat your system resources. Fear not, because there are other means to do it, although it can be tedious at first but once you get the hang of it you’ll just end up fine. The main thing that you have to take into consideration is to protect your computer – that‘s all what matters, isn’t it?

The first thing you need to do is to decode the shortened URL – there are actually different websites that offers URL shortening, but there are also free websites that offers decoding these shortened URLs and gives you back the original URL. Two of them are as follows:

All you have to do is copy and paste the short URL into the text box and get the complete decoded URL. – Now take note of this.

Why do we need to decode it before we have it checked by some free online website scanner? Most often than not, these online website scanners can’t follow through to the original link because when the URL is shortened and you clicked on it, it goes first to the domain that created the short URL before it transfers you or redirect you to the original link. So the basic explanation is, the online website scanner actually scans the domain of who shortened the URL and not actually the target website. Does it make sense?

You can actually Google for some websites that offers online scanning of the websites you want to check or even files before you download it. Here’s some on my list for you to try:

Google, actually offers one service that checks if a website has been infected or has been recorded to contain malicious content and all you have to do is type the following into your address bar:

http://www.google.com/safebrowsing/diagnostic?site=http://<decoded URL>

Where you have to replace the with the URL you got from decoding shortened URL.

Other online website or file scanners are:

In the end, it’s still up to you if you want to take the risk and this is only an advice to prevent you from kicking your computer. 🙂

Do you have any other means to avoid yourself from being infected? Please feel free to share your thoughts with us.

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About
Arsie also known as RC, professionally, is a Software Test Engineer (STE) from an outsourcing company based here in the Philippines. At the same time, he is also a freelancer tech blogger who writes any news, updates, current events, tricks, tips, and even reviews in the world of Information Technology. You can contact Arsie through our Eyes4Tech Contact page. Or you can also follow his updates on Facebook, Twitter or Google+.

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