Look at Links Before You Click

September 6, 2018

Header Image showing a person using a computer mouse

 

Many of our clients in the Traverse City region have security concerns for their information technology. Especially our legal and healthcare clients. Often, the issues that our clients face, simply stem from employees being fooled by the bad guys. One of the most popular ways the bad guys use to trick people is by embedding malicious links into websites that bring the user to webpages that are designed get the user to expose important private information, or to install harmful software. It’s important for users to be aware of malicious links, to review what they click on, and not blindly follow links.

 

What is a Link?

When interacting with your email and the web you use something called links. Links are exactly as they sound, they ‘link’ or connect parts of the internet together. If you are browsing the Web and you want to go from one webpage to another you do this via links. Links can come in the form of text, buttons, or images. Typically, you know you are on a link by a visual change in your cursor (if you are using a mouse) from a pointer arrow, to a hand. If you hover your cursor over the link somewhere in your browser or email you can see where exactly this link takes you. Knowing, where the link takes you is the crux of protecting yourself from the bad guys.

Let’s look at two examples of what I’m referring to:

 

Example 1: A link in a Web Browser

Visit google.com and you will see a handful of links on the page. Any one of these links will work for learning how to look at a link before you click. If you look to the upper left corner of the page you will see an ‘About’ link. On a desktop, hover your mouse over the “About” text and look into the lower part of the browser window. Across the bottom, you will see that some text will appear. The text will begin with https://www.google.com/ and be followed by lots of additional information.

 

Example 2: A Link in Outlook

Email is the most important place to monitor your incoming links. Anyone can email anything to you—they can put a bad and malicious link nearly anywhere within the email. Email is the most dangerous medium for you and one of the easiest for criminals to distribute dangerous and malicious links.

To view the link, you follow the same procedures in Outlook as with a web browser. Hover your mouse over the link, look at the bottom of the Outlook window, and you will see the link’s URL displayed across the bottom of the window.

 

The Anatomy of a Link

Let’s dissect some of the text that appears at the bottom of your web browser or Outlook.

https://
This is important because of the ‘s’. The ‘s’ means that the connection to the site you are about to connect to is secure. In order to get the ‘s’, the person who created the link had to purchase an SSL certificate. This means that the link, at least, was created by someone who purchased something (and entered their information) to get the link to work. Online criminals very often avoid purchasing SSL certificates.

www.google.com/
The next part of the link tells us that we are going to travel to a specific website, in this example google.com. This is important because if it said anything else, anything unexpected, we should be concerned. Clicking the ‘about’ button on the Google homepage, we can safely assume would take us to another page on Google—not another website. If it said www.amazon.com/ we may not be super concerned (Amazon isn’t a web address that is known to distribute malware) but it would be super confusing. If it said something like www.crazywebsite.com, we would have to be concerned and perhaps refrain from clicking on the link.

When looking at links in emails we should be aware of what content is in the email, and where we would expect to go if we click on a link. If we are registering for a webinar, we may get linked back to the company’s website, or to a site that hosts webinars. If the link doesn’t seem to point to a place that makes sense, then either delete the email or call your IT expert to have them review the link.

Carefully looking at the links when you’re web browsing or emailing is a simple action that will greatly enhance your online security.

 


 

If you’d like to learn more about how you can secure your Traverse City business, join us on October 10 at the Traverse City Chamber of Commerce at 1:00 PM for a FREE seminar “20 TECH TACTICS TO SECURE YOUR BUSINESS.

Seating is limited. Please reserve your ticket Here.