One of the most important cybersecurity tips is to avoid clicking unverified links, this is because it could be a channel in which cyberattacks use to infiltrate our devices and steal data or infect our devices with malicious software. How malicious can these links be, how can we detect them and how do we avoid falling victim to them? This is what we will be discussing in this article.

A link (or a hyperlink) is a string of text that provides the address or location of a file or service on a computer network. When you click a link, it sends you to the target location called a Uniform Resource Locator (URL). Attackers can manipulate a link to direct you to an unintended URL which may be infected with malware that can be introduced into your device.

Cyber attackers can use malicious links to gain access to user login credentials or to lure users into downloading malicious documents that enables attackers to spy on the user or access the user’s system remotely. Attackers can also redirect the traffic of a website the victim is visiting to a fake website through these malicious links.

Clicking on unverified links is generally a dangerous move. It is one of the most popular ways to introduce ransomware into your device. A ransomware is a type of malware that encrypts your data in such a way that the data becomes unreadable and inaccessible. The attacker typically demands for money in exchange for providing you with information to decrypt your data and it never comes cheap!

Recently, cyberattacks via social media channels like Instagram, Facebook etc, have become very popular. Attackers use these mediums to send too good to be true messages with malicious link attachments, in an attempt to trick unaware users into falling victim to their schemes, this is called phishing. APWG (Anti-Phishing Working Group) recorded 1,270,883 phishing attacks in the third quarter of 2022 where attacks against social media rose from 8.5% to 12.5% in the first quarter of 2022.

Social media phishing attacks can come in the form of:

  1. Fake news; where the user has to click a link to read further,
  2. A malicious shopping page; where the user pays for an item that does not exist or gets their credit card information stolen,
  3. An urgent message from a hacked friend’s account to click a link,
  4. Fake customer care support email to validate user credentials.

How to identify a malicious link?

If you are using a computer system, hover your mouse over the link and it will display the URL. It is a malicious, if it shows a different domain name than the domain name it claims to lead to. Alternatively, if you are using a mobile device, press and hold on the link to reveal the URL.

How to avoid attacks via malicious links?

  1. Never click on ads or pop-ups.
  2. Do not click on email attachments from unknown individuals unless you have confirmed that they are legitimate.
  3. Ensure to verify that the link is legitimate by doing a quick search on your web browser.
  4. Limit the amount of personal information you share on social media, so that attackers will not know enough to trick you.
  5. If you receive an email, ensure the email address is similar to the sender’s display name before engaging.
  6. Look for inconsistencies in the email, webpage or message contents like spelling errors and grammar, invalid company logos, or anything suspicious.
  7. Check for website Security Certificates (The website should use a secure connection, have a padlock at the web address and an HTTPS header).
  8. Download spam filter apps.
  9. Stay vigilant.

In Conclusion,

Cybersecurity is evolving daily with cyber attackers working tirelessly to create new ways to harm and make you their next victim. One of the numerous ways to achieve this is by actioning you to click on a malicious link. Remember, when you see a random link that you are not certain about, don’t click that link!