Today we spend a lot of time browsing the Internet for work or leisure. On many occasions to share that information with other people we use the links. However, sometimes these links are too long and to share them we use shortened links. This practice can be positive, but it can also be used by cybercriminals to carry out attacks to hide the destination URL. In addition, we also have shortened links that go through advertising websites before reaching our final destination. In this tutorial we are going to know what shortened links are, how you can see the real final real address, and how to avoid security problems and advertising websites.
We are going to start by explaining what a shortened link is and what advantages its use can bring us. We will also learn to create our own shortened links on trusted websites. With shortened links, before we click on them and they redirect us to the final web, there is a way to see where it takes us and if they are safe. Finally, we will see how to skip the intermediate advertising websites that come with some shortened links.
A shortened link could be defined as a short URL that will redirect us to the original URL. The purpose of working with shortened links is to obtain a URL that is more manageable to share and remember. The reasons why we need to work with links of this type are several, but above all it is because the URLs are getting longer and longer. The reason this happens is because web pages are getting longer and also because web developers in the URL end up adding descriptive attributes.
Regarding why it can be useful to work like this, they range from the need for space to share it on social networks such as Twitter or Facebook, for aesthetics, or with the intention of hiding the final URL, which is normally malware or phishing. This can be positive or negative because cybercriminals can use them to deceive us.
Now let’s see it with an example choosing this URL:
If we wanted to work with shortened links we would use a URL shortener and we would get a result like this:
In the event that we use this anon.to link, it would take us to the original link that we have indicated above
Before using a URL shortener to be able to work with shortened links, you have to know how to choose well. Today, our data has an important value and there are companies that are dedicated to collecting it. They could then use them themselves or sell them to third parties so that they can include us in spam campaigns or receive targeted advertising. That is why we are going to offer you a couple of trustworthy web pages to carry out this task.
Its way of working is very simple:
- In a section we enter the URL that we want to convert and press a button.
- Down in another section that shortened link will appear ready to use.
One of them is Anonymiz , which allows us to create shortened links with total anonymity and without storing records. To use it we must go to its website.
Simply by putting the link and pressing the SHORT IT button we will have it at our disposal.
Another very useful tool, also without registration and anonymously is Anon.to. If we want to use it we will go to your website . On this website we will quickly find the bar to put the address.
Then we click on the Shorten button and we can now work with shortened links. As you have seen, it is really easy and fast to create a shortened link, in addition, another positive aspect is that there are services such as Bit.ly where we can create a shortened link and see statistics of clicks that this shortened link has had, ideal for doing follow-up in marketing campaigns, for example.
Sometimes, sharing a link of this type on social networks can be very practical, especially if we take into account that in some they limit the number of characters per message. However, you should know that shortened links can be dangerous and are also used by cybercriminals.
In short, it could be an attempted Phishing attack, a scam whose objective is usually to steal information. It is a threat that must be taken seriously because we could be victims of identity theft. When we find this type of links we must fundamentally avoid two things:
- Avoid logging in through these links and using official channels.
- Avoid downloading files without checking that it is a reliable website.
Also a good solution to know where they redirect us with shortened links is to use services that show us the web that they are trying to hide. Thanks to them we can increase our security before clicking on a short link, this is what we explain below.
Let’s start with Unshorten.me , we find a very easy to use website that will show you what we have behind that shortened link. Thus, it indicates the original link , an image as a preview. It also gives us additional information on whether it is blacklisted and whether it is a secure page.
A very useful service for working with shortened links, searching for viruses, and all kinds of malware is VirusTotal . What we have to do is select the URL tab to check if that link is safe. In that aspect you can work with both normal and shortened links. Your way to proceed will be to analyze it using a large number of detection engines. In the end you will get results in which the different engines will show if they have seen something bad in our link.
Another very simple website to use to discover shortened links is URL Expander , which works in a similar way to the previous services. However, it has a peculiarity, since it has a field where we can paste several links and thus obtain different source URLs in a single run. Finally, another tool for working with shortened links is CheckShortURL . We add the link to check and by pressing the «Expand» button we will obtain the result we are looking for.
Have you ever come across an Adfly link related to advertising? In case you don’t know, Adfly allows us to shorten links so that later we can use them on social networks, forums or websites. The problem is when you click on that link and you get ads for a few seconds and we can’t remove it. Other services that act in a similar way are Linkbucks and Ouo.
However, to block those intermediate advertising websites that run on these types of short links, we could use browser extensions such as the following:
- Ads Link Skiper : is available for Chrome .
- Adfly Skipper : we have it for Firefox .
- Universal Bypass : we can use it in two browsers Mozilla Firefox and Microsoft Edge .
Finally, it should be noted that these browser extensions are a good tool to block those intermediate advertising websites that come with shortened links.