Internet is a big place for a large variety of content. There is a lot of useful information as well as harmful content and spam. A user has to be really careful when he/she browses the Internet. One of the most common means of deception to lure users to click on malicious links is by hiding the actual URL behind URL shorteners.
Shortened URLs change the original URL structure and prevent users from knowing where the link is directed. Novice people who have little or no knowledge of malicious links would be easily lured into clicking such suspicious link, and then they realize, “Ah! I shouldn’t have clicked that!”
It is generally recommended to avoid clicking links shortened by URL shorteners mainly because they do not reveal where they actually direct to. But not all shortened URLs are malicious. The main idea of shortening URLs is making them easier to share. However, some people take this as an advantage to share malicious or spamming links.
It is relatively easy to find out where shortened URLs actually lead to, without opening them. Add-Ons and Extensions are available for popular browsers that display real links behind the shortened URLs. URLs can also be unshortened from websites like Unshort.me (extension for Chrome also available), Urlunshortener.com, etc. The Unshortened URL tells you which site the link belongs to and which page you will be redirected to. So, if you feel the link is unknown/ suspicious, you can avoid clicking on the link.
To find out whether a particular link is reliable or not, you can refer to the site’s WOT rating. Web Of Trust is a community of users that analyze and rate websites according to metrics such as Trustworthiness, Vendor Reliability, Privacy and Child Safety. Since it is rated by a large community of users, WOT ratings, although not accurate sometimes, are reliable.
WOT Add-Ons/Extensions for browsers show websites’ WOT rating alongside a URL. This can help users to decide whether a particular link is reliable or not. Although the WOT extension works even on shortened URLs, it is advisable to unshorten links so that you are sure where a link is supposed to take you.
So, all you have to do is install a URL expander add-on/extension in your browser, which helps you to reveal the actual links behind those shortened URLs. Additionally, a WOT extension gives you information about a site’s reliability.
Add-Ons and Extensions
Several Add-Ons are available for different browsers to Un-shorten URLs. WOT Extensions for Chrome and Firefox are also available.
Chrome and Firefox users can download the Xpnd.it! short URL expander extension. Chrome users can get it from Chrome Web Store. Firefox users can download the available Add-On. The extension displays Expanded URLs and other site information whenever the user hovers over a short-link.
Download Xpnd.it! short URL Expander ( Chrome | Firefox )