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If you spend any time online, you deal with links. A lot. Chances are you clicked a link to get to this blog. If you are wondering what a link is, it is text or an image that you click with your mouse or select with your keyboard to access another website or document. They are normally easy to identify as the creator of that link wants you to click it. They won't normally sneak up on you, so no worries. :)

 

Good link, bad link.

Most links that you will interact with are good, useful links. They allow you to communicate with friends on a social website, check your email, read the news, and check stocks. However, there are bad links out there. Some links will try to install a virus on your computer, some will try to redirect you to content you don't want, others will try to steal your personal information. So lets go over some ways that you can protect yourself from bad links.

 

Trust issues.

The most common bad link people will see is a link attached to an email. These emails are designed to look like it is from somebody you know, or offer something you would be interested in. You click the link and suddenly you are in a world of trouble. As a computer technician, this is probably the second or third most common cause I see for a viral infection on the PC. A good rule of thumb is, "If you don't know the person, don't click the links!" If somebody came up to you on the street and asked you to take a pill, you would keep walking, right? Use the same logic with email links. If you weren't expecting the email or have no idea who sent it, keep walking.

 

Here phishy phishy!

I will cover this topic better later on in another article, but some common bad links are associated with "phishing." Phishing is a technique scammers use to get your personal information by tricking you to give it to them. An example would be a website that was set up to look like the bank that you use. The scammers get you to click their link to their fake website, and ask you to enter in your personal information (username, password, social security number, bank account numbers, ect.) to either protect your account or to log in. How do you spot the fake?

  1. Look for long internet addresses (the "HTTP" text in the browsers navigational area, usually up top).
  2. Make sure the "domain" is right, e.g. bankofamerica.com and not bankofemerica.com.
  3. If it came in an email, check the senders email address. Some scammers will try to mimic banks and popular websites, but usually they don't do very well.
  4. If the website or email looks "phishy", it probably is! Trust your instinct!

One good habit to avoid phishing scams is to NOT CLICK LINKS to access your personal accounts (unless expecting it, such as an activation email for a new account). If eBay sends you a link, type in "ebay.com" in your address bar by hand. Anything they email you can be accessed from your account profile on their site. If you get an email from your bank with an email to update your info, again, type in the website for your bank by hand, and then log in. Some scammers are very good at making their links look official. The first step to avoiding being phished is to not click them at all.

 

Facebook: hacked!

Now, I will say that the new "hacked" is not really hacked at all. On Facebook there are applications or software that developers can write that interact with your account, but only work when you give permission. There are many links on Facebook right now that try to get you to click with headings like, "Girl kills herself on live webcast!", "Can you believe this dad did this to his kid?", or "Lose 50 pounds in three days!"

When you click these links, you will be asked if you wish for this "application" to have access to your profile. My personal policy with Facebook is, "If I don't need it, they don't need it." Clicking "allow" to some of these applications will result in you spreading this link to all of your friends, and all manner of content being posted to your account.

 

What if I did a bad thing?

Ok, so you went click happy. Slap your hand for me. Thanks.

  • The first thing you should do is identify what you clicked. If you were "phished" like I said before, you need to change the password(s) used on the site that was impersonated. If you entered personal information like social security numbers or bank account numbers, you need to keep a close eye on your credit, and contact your financial institution to get your account secured. There are services such as "Life Lock" which provide credit monitoring services in case of identity theft.
  • If you clicked a bad link and unknown software was installed, you may have a virus. You will want to download an anti-virus program such as AVG and run some scans to make sure you are safe. AVG is free, but they will try to get you to purchase their full software. Just keep clicking the free links. You may also want to consider having a professional look at your computer for you and make sure it is virus free. Some viruses sit on your computer gathering personal information to be sent to the designer, which results in identity theft in many cases. It is very much worth the money to have it checked out versus not checking and having your information in somebody else's hands.
  • If you clicked a bad link in Facebook and you allowed an application access to your profile, you can find instructions how to remove it here. (I know the irony of using a link here to help you.)

 

Wrapping up

The internet is a great place. There are some bad things on there, sure, but don't let that keep you from enjoying the good stuff! If you take the time to educate yourself and think about what you are doing online and who you are trusting, you will be able to browse with confidence. AVG and other companies are doing their part to make the internet safer for the average user. They have developed programs called "link scanners" which identify known bad links and do not even let you visit those sites. Browsers such as Google Chrome and Firefox provide the same layer of protection. So click smart, and click with confidence!


        
  

About Me

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Curt Blanshan / Youth Pastor, Tech, Lover of Bacon

Crazy in love with my wife and best friend, father to a little ball of energy I call my son, and passionate about youth ministry. When I get time, I try to keep up on tech. Oh, and I love bacon.

Comments

  • Anonymous's picture

    Submitted by on March 31st 2011 //

    Nicley done ;),



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