Are There Any Security Risks With URL Shorteners?

One of the main purposes of the internet ever since it was created was for the sharing of information.

In the days before the internet sharing data was extremely slow, especially if you were talking about actual data such as pictures, music and items of that nature.

The only course of communication that was able to get around in a quick manner was the human voice through the use of a telephone.

Now we have broken that limitation and data is able to be transferred around the world in less than a couple of minutes.

Part of what makes the transfer of data so easy is the fact that we use a system of links to get it done.

When the creators of the internet were pondering how they were going to be able to have the people easily transfer data back and forth with each other, they came up with what is known as hyper links.

Now anyone who uses a computer knows about links and how they work.

The one problem that people do have now is how long the links turn out when you create them.

When you create a hyperlink, you generally try to put into words what the link is about.

This way the link is long but the person clicking on the link can be sure that it is the right one.

Other times, if you are creating a link automatically, as you would do with a CMS program such as WordPress, the link tends to be made up of a bunch of random numbers and letters.

This is hard for the end user to read and even harder for the person if they are trying to send that link to another person.

So there are services that have become popular in the past couple of years that try to help alleviate this problem.

These services are known as URL shorteners and they are becoming more popular than ever.

do URL shorteners pose any security risks?

do URL shorteners pose any security risks?

How Does A URL Shortening Service Work?

These services work in a quite simple manner –

If you are on a web site that has a link that you want to send you may be stopped by the length of the actual link.

You could be stopped because of the medium on what you are trying to send the link on.

For example, Twitter and Mobile phones text services do not usually accept submissions that are over 140 characters.

This leaves out a lot of web site addresses.

So if you run across a link that is that long then you should go to a URL shortening web site and place the link inside of it.

Once you do that you will have a new link that is shown to you.

This new link leads to the same exact place as the link that you placed inside of the web site led to.

The only difference is that now the address is shorter and you should have no problem using it with any service that is out there.

How Safe Are These Services?

Now that you know how to use one of these services, the question becomes “how safe are they”.

Trusting one of these services with the data that you are sending to others is quite a risky proposition.

While most of the time you will not deal in any kind of danger with one of these services there is always that small chance that you might.

Let’s go over some of the trouble that you might run across.

The first thing that you want to do is to check the link that is generated before you send it to anybody else.

You want to be sure that the link sends the people to where you want them to go.

If the link sends them to a web site that delivers them a virus or any other piece of malware on their computer then your good name is on the line – they clicked on this strange looking link on your say so and you led them down the wrong path – it will be hard for them to trust you with a link again.

The other thing that you have to worry about is the reliability of the site that you are using.

When you use a link shortening service provided by bit.ly, Facebook, Google or other such trusted services then you know that you will be ok and they are not going anywhere.

But a small web site might not be around forever.

The links that you sent using that service will die if that web site is not around anymore.

Or worse than that, they will be used to send people to different places than originally intended.

As you can see, URL shorten services can be a real good thing.

You just have to be careful with what service you use.

About Lee Munson

Lee's non-technical background allows him to write about internet security in a clear way that is understandable to both IT professionals and people just like you who need simple answers to your security questions.

Comments

  1. What about the security risk of shortening company or government secure internal network URL’s that allow those with access to your submissions on that site the ability to map out your secure internal network and conduct an educated penetration hack? Doesn’t .ly belong to Libya who the US is at war with at present?

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