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Pop-up links with advertising always appear on the desktop promoting “the best things on the internet”, the reality is that the user doesn’t know where the link will send it. While the pop-up may seem attractive to the public, it could contain malicious information. Whether a user may be navigating over the internet, or a pop-up advertisement appears on its desktop, they want to know how to check if a link is safe or not.
Antivirus and browsers add-in offer support to verify the reliability of a website. Netizens should check a link, whenever a warning appears on their screens. Hackers are constantly sophisticating their attacks and these can be unknowable by the users.
A malicious link is placed all over the internet to scam and steal information from users. Even when an advertisement on the internet may look very attractive, users should avoid opening unknown links.
Unfortunately, it is hard to recognize by myself all the malicious websites across the internet, but there are plenty of ways to keep my identity safe and avoid unsafe links.
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Most of the browsers warn the users before redirecting them into a new site, websites should have on the date their Security Certificate, otherwise, it would be taken as an unsafe site.
Google has different add-ins that provide a real-time security system, and also many antivirus software offers the same.
It is always highly recommended to have installed an antivirus suite that provides a cloud-based support and scanning system for websites.
A link can be considered the direction of a specific data, once you click on a link, this would send the user to a specific place on the internet. When a user clicks on a link it would be redirected to a page.
There are a few sites where a user can check if a link is safe or not, but as a first step, the user can verify as the first sign if at the beginning of the link address starts with HTTPS:// which means HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure.
HTTPS protocol is the first protection line on the internet to protect the users’ integrity. It is an internet communication protocol that provides an encryption system, data integrity services, and authentication support.
Anyone can obtain a Security Certificate provided by different Certificate Authorities once they verify the website owner’s credentials.
HTTPS protects the site’s owner and the users against man-in-the-middle attacks. Its bidirectional encryption systems provide an anti-tracking service, where the communication on the site is safe against malicious attacks.
However, the whole site and its content must be hosted over HTTPS, otherwise, the user will be vulnerable on the web and could suffer from any hacker attack.
The next sites are link checkers, these scan the whole site to confirm if it is free of any malicious software.
Google offers its link checker. Google Transparency Report will scan the URL requested, and it will know the user if the site is trustworthy and warn about any phishing risk on the link.
Just by copying the link on the Norton Safe Web researcher, will give to the user a whole report of the site, including ratings and reviews.
Norton also has a Google Chrome add-in that makes a fast analysis of the sites and a Page Extension.
ScanURL is an independent security checker that joins the information of various malware detectors and gives a full report about the site. It provides a recommendation of the scanned site and a list of results.
VirusTotal a multi-task scanner that also detects the type of malware that a site can have. It also has an app that works on Android and Windows operating systems.
PhishTank provides an anti-phishing analysis to keep the user’s identity saved. It also has already set a list of dangerous sites that put user identity at risk. On the other side, anyone can collaborate to verify how unsafe a link address can be.
It is well known that hackers use adware to scam and attack people on the internet. An advertisement-support software (adware) is made to constantly show pop-up ads over the screen; when a user downloads a program, this one can secretly install adware on the computer.
While some adware was created to just make money, they are not dangerous, but annoying. But sometimes, the adware can be used by hackers to redirect users to malicious sites.
Legitimate adware offers free products, and they mostly come along with a program installed by the user. The advertisement is displayed on the screen on the program, and sometimes on the desktop.
However, before installing the named app, the description will say that it is “ad-supported” software.
On the other side, there are potentially unwanted applications that users may even don’t know that the software was installed on their computer. While the adware can be harmless, most of them share malicious sites or contain any malware itself.
The adware uses links to redirect the user to a website of the owner of the advertisement shown. In this case, it is hard to see the URL on the pop-up, but the user can right-click on the ad, and paste it into any link checker.
However, it is recommended to have an antivirus suite that offers real-time protection and never clicks when a pop-up ad appears on the screen.
Since it is hard to recognize if the link doesn’t share any malicious content, I can say that it is not safe to click on the adware.
When a user is navigating on the internet, and researching for something, it can hover over the site by placing the mouse in the link without a click on it; a preview of the site will be displayed and check if the website is, somehow, trustworthy.
However, when a URL does not have a beginning the HTTPS:// is recommended to check if the website has any malicious data.
I always prefer to scan when it is an unknown site, and have the real-time protection activated rather than have any malware on any of my devices.
When the user is the owner of a site and wants to provide that is a trustworthy source must verify the URL, and turn it from an HTTP site to an HTTPS.
Before, I explained that HTTPS is a security protocol that provides secure communication for users and the website server itself. The data encryption in HTTPS is provided by a protocol called Transport Layer Security (TLS).
The TLS is a bidirectional (end-to-end) cryptography protocol that keeps the exchange of data secure and private. It transfers the data between the users and the server across the net blocking the intrusion of hackers and third parties.
This security protocol only provides support on the internet on a specific website (just the HTTPS websites).
TLS protocol uses two combinations of data encryption, symmetric and asymmetric cryptography. Symmetric cryptography uses private keys over 128-256 bits in length.
On the other side, asymmetric cryptography uses a combination of private and public keys, those have a length of 1024 bits (weak) or 2048 bits (strong)
Even when a user provides this encrypted security, it needs to be certified by an authority. A Certificate Authority examines the activities of the TLS protocol, verifies the website credentials, and checks the reliability of the servers, then provides a digital Security Certificate.
The most well-known Certificate Authority is Symantec, but there is also IdenTrust, DigiCert, and Sectigo.
There are two types of URLs, these are named absolute and relative.
An absolute URL shows the complete address of the website, it begins with the type of hypertext (HTTP:// or HTTPS://), the address (the location of the server), and then the path (the location of a specific file). For example:
Type://address/path → https://accounts.google.com/servicelogin
On the other hand, a relative URL is the shortened version of the absolute URL. This is normally used on social media to don’t waste characters. It just includes the path, and sometimes just a part of the address.
However, there is no way to say what a safe URL looks like since all of them look almost the same, and can just be absolute or relative. Anyways, a safe URL has certain qualities that can be easily identified.
First of all, if it is a relative URL, it must be expanded, so I can check the type, and verify if it has a Security Certificate (HTTPS protocol).
Secondly, I check the name, most of the time hackers use similar names of trustworthy sources (e.g. Googel instead of Google). Third, every safe URL has a lock icon beside it, this is provided by the browser.
Even when a URL may look like a safe and reliable site, I always recommend having active real-time protection, using an antivirus add-in, and if the URL doesn’t have the HTTPS protocol, I check it on a link scanner.
Whenever a user tries to open an unsafe link, the browser will send a warning; however, just by clicking on the option to “go to the site”, the browser will redirect the user to the website.
I always prefer to check the websites on link scanners every time this happens to me. The internet is full of options and I can always look for information in other places.
Malware is everywhere, and the internet is a dangerous place. People must have an eye on the URL if they don’t want to suffer any cyber-attack.
Whenever the site looks unsafe, it is better to be extra careful and always prevent an unwanted situation. Checking links is never a waste of time when it comes to cybersecurity.