ITS Tech Tip: Use Caution When Following Links on Social Media

Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter are some of the most popular ways for computer criminals to distribute viruses, worms, and other types of malicious software (malware). The viruses spread by tricking you into clicking on a link that leads to an infected web page, which could infect your computer. Once infected, the virus can use your Twitter, Facebook, or email account to spread itself to the next victims without your knowledge.

Before clicking on links from friends, carefully evaluate those links. It can be hard to know which links are dangerous, especially when so many people use link shorteners like bit.ly and tinyurl. Here are some things you can do to be safe:

  1. Pay close attention to what the post or tweet says. Is the link just by itself, with no text? Or does it just say something generic like "Here's a funny video"? Is there anything in the post or tweet that looks remotely like your friend would have written it? When in doubt, don't click. Ask your friend if they posted the link and what it leads to.
  2. If the link has been shortened, use a site like unshorten.it to reveal the full URL before you visit the site. Look closely at the URL. Does it look legitimate?
  3. Enter the URL into a website tester like www.siteadvisor.com or safeweb.norton.com. These sites track dangerous sites and flag them. They're not perfect, but they do catch a lot of the dangerous sites out there. If these sites warn you away, don't follow the link.
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