Links. They're such handy little items as you navigate your way around the internet. And I’m sure that you will find them in your email too! But you should treat them with suspicion – real suspicion - unless you know and have verified who they are from.
I need to be a little bit specific here - just because you know the person or the website doesn't mean it's really from them. If we ever send a link to our clients, we advise them first, and then send the link with instructions to contact us to verify that it's real.
Why so much fuss? and are they really so dangerous? It’s because they are an easy way for hackers to take you to a fake web page. Once you are there, it’s easy for them to steal passwords, credit card or even personal identity details. Clicking on what seems to be a harmless link can also install remote control software, viruses, or even change settings on your computer. You might even be forwarding all of your emails to a hacker, and not know about it. Hackers love to impersonate people or websites, and it's a simple and very effective tool in their arsenal to get at you.
So be careful of those links. They can be very dangerous.
Fake web pages
What's that all about? Now that a very good question. When the internet was created, it was like a house without locks on the doors. No Police, no real authority – I often refer to it as the online version of the Wild West. Anybody, including hackers, can create a web page that looks identical to your Facebook page, or your banking page and then by sending you a link, they can redirect you to the page that they have created. You log in, and suddenly, they have your details. Now to be fair, there a few more steps than that, but there are also a few steps that you can take too.
Be very careful of what you receive in your email. Spammers have tools that look at a domain, and then send millions of emails to every possible name in that domain. What do I mean by a domain? Let's make one up and use it as an example. If we use footyball.com.au and have an email address of ABC@ footyball.com.au you will have the right idea. Spammers then start at aaa@ followed by aab@ and on they go. By doing this they can send their rubbish to as many people as possible. If only 1% of people click on the link, the hackers will still have succeeded in what they wanted to do.
We’ve looked at just a few of the way's that links are used. Please be aware that there are so many more, and we have only scratched the surface.
Now it's not about being scared, it's about being aware. Knowledge is a powerful weapon. Before you click on a link, examine it carefully. Does it have https? Are there spelling errors? Many malicious links contain spelling errors. Is it an unexpected email, perhaps from someone you know? That’s a big warning sign right there, especially if there are spelling errors. Contact them and verify that it’s a legitimate email. Now hover your cursor (mouse) over the link BUT DON’T CLICK. The real destination will be revealed. If it doesn’t match the link, that’s another warning sign. If you do click and enter your password and you are asked to reset your password - that’s a sure sign that someone is trying to steal your details.
In order to recap, change the way you think about the internet – hackers feed on you believing that it’s a safe place. It’s not – it's like the wild west that we see in the movies. Be aware. Think “layers of security” and install software that helps to keep you safe. If you're not sure how to do that, we’ll be looking at that in other posts.
If you are concerned about links, or issues around security, contact us for more information. If you own or run a business, make sure that you alert your staff to be aware of links. We’re happy to come in and explain just how dangerous they really are, with real-world business examples.
But, in our next post, we’ll talk about Hackers. Who they are, and what they do. Stay tuned!