When you visit any web page, you will usually see several links around the page suggesting that you click on them for more information or to read an entertaining article and so on. This is normal and not harmful.
But today, we want to talk about suspicious and malicious links that might take you to phishing sites — websites with viruses that can initiate the download and installation of malware on your device without your knowledge, which can lead to security and privacy threats, as well as theft of your personal data.
Clicking or tapping a link in an email, text or just on a website is always a bit of a gamble. On the other end of a link could be the information you want to see, or it could be a malicious website, virus-filled download or inappropriate content. Sometimes the only way to know for sure is to click. However, there are some important questions you can ask first that will give you a good idea of whether the link is safe or not.
Fraud is one of the fastest growing privacy and security issues these days. Internet scammers often send spam emails containing malicious links, post phishing links online, and try to trick people into unwittingly clicking on dangerous links.
Always check the destination of links before clicking on them. To try and appear legitimate, these emails will often include links to valid pages. A fraudulent email may contain legitimate links, so be cautious.
Perhaps the most important question you can ask is how you got the link in the first place. Was it in an unsolicited email or text message? Did you get it in a Google search? Was it in a friend’s Facebook post?
If you’re even a little suspicious of a link, you shouldn’t click on it. Better safe than sorry. And if it’s information you really need, you can usually visit a company’s site directly to find it, or look it up in a Google search.
As a rule, if a link is unsolicited, you don’t want to click on it. Hackers send out malicious links in emails and texts daily. They’re especially good at putting links in emails that look like they’re from legitimate companies. If the link is from someone you know, check with them first to make sure they really sent it, and that their account wasn’t hacked.
Link Checking Tool
It doesn’t matter whether the link you received is a standard-length URL or shortened. If it is dangerous in any way, a 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.
You can also install an extension link checker for your web browser. It will warn you if websites it considers dangerous and will stop you from visiting such web pages when you click on links in other apps. This applies only to desktop web browsers, not mobile. There are lots available and many are free; others are part of antivirus packages. There’s McAfee Web Advisor, Kaspersky URL Advisor, Norton Safe Search and many others.
Here are some recommended link checking tools:
Ahrefs is a well-known and respected SEO tool that offers a free broken link checker. An upgrade is required if you want to scan from a specific path only, or a specific domain without dropping into subdomains. Interestingly though this tool doesn’t just scan for broken links from the website. It also finds incoming broken links too.
Google Chrome Page Checking Plugin – Check My Links
This is a great tool for checking your links. It will only check the page you are viewing at that moment in time. It does however highlight the areas of the page red or green to highlight issues rather like heatmaps you are probably used to from using Google Analytics etc.
Xenu Link Sleuth
The tool would crawl your entire website & return with a list of broken links (as well as other information) & the pages pointing to the broken link so you could go fix this issue. A great, fast & easy way to use a piece of software, perfect for just checking for broken links. After installing Xenu you just need to enter the domain that you wish to check, enter any parameters or URLs you want the software to skip. Once the software has completed spidering your website you should see any errors highlight red, if you right-click on the page you will be able to see which pages are linking to the broken link.
Dr. Link Check
Dr. Link Check is a modern tool designed solely for link checking and is very straightforward and easy to use. Out of all the tools so far, it had the most pleasant interface and output so you could see exactly what it was doing.
Its paid features include blacklist checks (checking you’re not linking to websites listed as a malware or phishing site), parked domain checks and SSL certificate checks.