Maintaining a brand’s presence online involves building and protecting its reputation and the people who visit its Web site or blog. Aside from securing the brand and its social profiles from entities that can cause any damage to its reputation, site owners and search engine marketing practitioners would also need to keep Web spam and other forms of malware advances at bay.
Exploiting Shortened URLs
The use of shortened URLs is one of the many ways malicious activities like scams and clickbot propagation that can infect Web sites and overrun social media profiles. Essentially, URL shortening services like Bitly and TinyURL have become one of the most useful utilities for any Web user. They trim ridiculously long URLs, making them easier to embed and share on sites like Twitter and other microblogging services that allow only a limited number of characters per post.
However, URL shorteners have also become great tools in the online scammer’s shed. Nearly all shortened URLs offer no contextual clues as to what sites they direct to—something scammers are taking advantage of as they goad people into clicking them to drag them to phishing sites. The common ways scammers can insert poisoned shortened URLs into a site and its other online assets include:
- Leaving comments on your blog posts containing shortened URLs
- Tagging you on Facebook statuses and rogue social applications, or on tweets (via #hashtags or including your brand’s @username)
- Spoofing your brand on social networks, gathering up many followers, and then spamming them with poisoned links
- Actually having a skilled hacker get into your site and insert those links in various pages (and even replacing the link existing anchor text’s are directing to)
Preventive Measures and Tools
Logically, the best way to prevent these intrusions from happening is to police your brand’s online assets. Sure it will take time, but site managers will need to monitor the interactions made on their site or blog, and on their social media profiles for poisoned shortened URLs. And to separate safe sites from those poisoned links, you’ll need to decode the shortened URLs to find out where they will direct you to.
Here are four tools that can help you decipher where shortened URLs may take you. All these services are very easy to use; all you need to do is paste the shortened URL to a text field and then hit a button to reveal the site destination.
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