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Old 28th January 2013, 06:34 PM   #1
TheL8Elvis
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How do you decide which links to follow

Once upon a time, in different thread, a poster posted a link and there was some controversy about whether or not to follow the link.

There were some claims made about people not following links they weren't familiar with and that perhaps it wasn't safe to follow some links.

I would like to ask all those link-following-averse people what sort of methodology they use to determine if they should follow a link, and how they know it's safe ?

Below are some example urls , they don't lead anywhere bad or to anything NSFW...Additionally, I intentionally broke them all by adding a space, so if you want to follow them, you really have to try.


http://www.exploit-db.com/exploits/23077/

67.228.115.45/

tinyurl.com/mo4ff6

1.usa.gov/OYCBM7

forums.randi.org/forumindex.php

http://tiny url.com/create.php?sourc...yURL%21&alias=
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Old 28th January 2013, 06:37 PM   #2
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It's rare that I follow links out of the forum at all. But if you don't bother to give some indication of what's waiting on the other side, preferably with a succinct summary, you've guaranteed I will have no interest.
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Old 28th January 2013, 06:48 PM   #3
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I will never follow any link that consists of just an IP address, like your second one. I will require a very good reason to follow a TinyURL or similar url concealer shortener. I prefer links that actually explain what they're linking to, like this link to the Sydney Morning Herald. But if it's clear from the address what site it is linking to, I usually don't have a problem with it.

So out of your list, the only one I would not hesitate to follow is the one to the forum index.
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Old 28th January 2013, 09:46 PM   #4
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I may follow tinyurl from twitter, but I generally avoid IP links unless it's a trusted source. The problem I generally have is that I have two sets of standards. On mobile phones I have a much higher standard because I can't hoverand phone browsers cause random crashes. On a computer? If I have NoScript, I'm a bit more adventurous.
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Old 28th January 2013, 10:00 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by TheL8Elvis View Post
I would like to ask all those link-following-averse people what sort of methodology they use to determine if they should follow a link, and how they know it's safe ?
Depends on what machine I'm on at the time:

Work - never. Heavily net-nannied.

Home PC - If the link raised suspicion in my mind (which is rare) I might google it or ignore it entirely - depends on my mood.

iPhone - click away.
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Old 28th January 2013, 11:56 PM   #6
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I rarely care what the link looks like; I only care where it comes from.
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Old 29th January 2013, 02:05 AM   #7
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I don't mind as long as there is some description of what the link is for. I won't follow a 'blind' link with no input from the poster saying what it is and why it should be followed.
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Old 29th January 2013, 03:41 AM   #8
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Pretty much as per the last 3 posts.
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Old 29th January 2013, 06:23 AM   #9
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I like the convention used by many posters at slashdot.org. When posting a link, they follow it immediately with brackets and the domain to which it leads. Such as: Check this out [google.com]

And, on-topic, I won't follow links from my parents.
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Old 29th January 2013, 07:05 AM   #10
TheL8Elvis
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Originally Posted by arthwollipot View Post
I will never follow any link that consists of just an IP address, like your second one. I will require a very good reason to follow a TinyURL or similar url concealer shortener. I prefer links that actually explain what they're linking to, like this link to the Sydney Morning Herald. But if it's clear from the address what site it is linking to, I usually don't have a problem with it.

So out of your list, the only one I would not hesitate to follow is the one to the forum index.
On to the heart of the matter - why ?

Do you believe if you can 'see' where it's going it's safer, or what ?
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Old 29th January 2013, 07:05 AM   #11
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My only wish is that people who post links would indicate that the link is directly to a video, or if the link is to a page that has annoying and LOUD audio that starts instantly. A little courtesy would be nice.

And this seems like as good a place as any to make this rant about Youtube. Why do all Youtube videos start with the sound defaulted to maximum no matter what you do to try to prevent that. Always. So irritating. And my PC volume settings are set at a fairly low level overall, yet Youtube videos will wake the dead every time. [rant over]
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Old 29th January 2013, 07:06 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by KoihimeNakamura View Post
I may follow tinyurl from twitter, but I generally avoid IP links unless it's a trusted source. The problem I generally have is that I have two sets of standards. On mobile phones I have a much higher standard because I can't hoverand phone browsers cause random crashes. On a computer? If I have NoScript, I'm a bit more adventurous.
You can see the complete link on iOS if you do a long press. And since the apps a re sandboxed, crashing the browser is not a concern (to me).

Why is an IP address more questionable than a domain name ?
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Old 29th January 2013, 07:08 AM   #13
TheL8Elvis
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Originally Posted by Ray Brady View Post
It's rare that I follow links out of the forum at all. But if you don't bother to give some indication of what's waiting on the other side, preferably with a succinct summary, you've guaranteed I will have no interest.
Originally Posted by Captain_Swoop View Post
I don't mind as long as there is some description of what the link is for. I won't follow a 'blind' link with no input from the poster saying what it is and why it should be followed.
Is that out of a security concern - or simply you don't want to waste time ?

I am more interested in the idea of why people won't follow links that they perceive to be a security issue, and how they arrive at that conclusion.
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Old 29th January 2013, 07:09 AM   #14
TheL8Elvis
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Originally Posted by malaka View Post
I like the convention used by many posters at slashdot.org. When posting a link, they follow it immediately with brackets and the domain to which it leads. Such as: Check this out [google.com]

And, on-topic, I won't follow links from my parents.
I see a good case for not following links from parents on many fronts
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Old 29th January 2013, 08:19 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by TheL8Elvis View Post
I am more interested in the idea of why people won't follow links that they perceive to be a security issue, and how they arrive at that conclusion.
#1 Clue: Mismatch between a displayed URL and the actual link. For example:

Hey, go see this article at www.nytimes.com!*

It takes additional work to conceal a URL like this, it's not really something that would happen accidentally, and there's no reason to unless you don't want someone to think about what they're linking to. Added to this arethe "semi-legit" names. Such as "mybank.geocities.com" instead of "mybank.com" (yeah, that's obvious, but some are sneakier).

#2 Clue: Certain domains, for example ".gov" and ".edu", are restricted. You can't just go get a URL in those domains unles you are government or education. Therefore, these tend to be safer...I don't have too much of an issue going to these links assuming there are no other warning signs.

#3 Clue: Active content and/or variables where they shouldn't be. For example, your addition to the forumindex.php .

#4 Clue: Anything claiming to be urgent, official, critical, or personal that only consists of email contact, and often especially if it only includes the parts of my name easily garnered from my email address.

Tips:
Research URLs if you have any doubt. A google search of the url name will often turn up info if it's a malicious or suspicious website.

Keep your browser settings restrictive. If you don't want warnigns for a site you visit often and that is safe, don't reduce your settings globally; add that site to your trusted sites list (or equivalent).

Use a good, up-to-date anti-virus and/or spyware/adware scanner, and a popup blocker. Keep it up to date.

More generally, keep your operating system up to date, whichever OS you're using.

As others have stated, consider the source. How did you get the URL? From a friend you trust? From a friend who takes his computer in for virus cleaning twice a year? From someone you've never interacted with before? And if froma friend, does it sound liek something they'd send, and was it something you expected to get from them ("from" email addresses can be spoofed, and many exploits and viruses can compromise a person's address book). Also, if you know how, you can examine header information on emaisl to see where it was routed. These can be spoofed, but it's less common than spoofing the from address. So an email from "mybank.com" whose first hop was through a Nigerian domain is probably not legit.

That's off-the-top-of-my-head ideas. Hope that helps

Last edited by Hellbound; 29th January 2013 at 08:21 AM.
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Old 29th January 2013, 08:47 AM   #16
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I have an easier heuristic. For domains that I don't recognize, I don't click unless there is about a page/day's worth of discussion, and no one writes "that link horked up my computer".
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Old 29th January 2013, 08:53 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by TheL8Elvis View Post
I am more interested in the idea of why people won't follow links that they perceive to be a security issue, and how they arrive at that conclusion.
Because it's a PITA to clean or rebuilt your system after being hit with malware and skipping a link is easier? Maybe they've been rickrolled too many times?

No browser/OS platform is perfectly safe. There are also things on the Internet that cannot be unseen. That's 2 sane reasons to avoid unfamiliar links.
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Old 29th January 2013, 09:20 AM   #18
TheL8Elvis
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Originally Posted by Hecubas View Post
Because it's a PITA to clean or rebuilt your system after being hit with malware and skipping a link is easier? Maybe they've been rickrolled too many times?
restore from backup shouldn't be too much of a PITA

Originally Posted by Hecubas View Post
No browser/OS platform is perfectly safe. There are also things on the Internet that cannot be unseen. That's 2 sane reasons to avoid unfamiliar links.
How do you define familiar links ?
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Old 29th January 2013, 09:27 AM   #19
TheL8Elvis
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Originally Posted by Hellbound View Post
#1 Clue: Mismatch between a displayed URL and the actual link. For example:

Hey, go see this article at www.nytimes.com!*

It takes additional work to conceal a URL like this, it's not really something that would happen accidentally, and there's no reason to unless you don't want someone to think about what they're linking to. Added to this arethe "semi-legit" names. Such as "mybank.geocities.com" instead of "mybank.com" (yeah, that's obvious, but some are sneakier).

#2 Clue: Certain domains, for example ".gov" and ".edu", are restricted. You can't just go get a URL in those domains unles you are government or education. Therefore, these tend to be safer...I don't have too much of an issue going to these links assuming there are no other warning signs.

#3 Clue: Active content and/or variables where they shouldn't be. For example, your addition to the forumindex.php .

#4 Clue: Anything claiming to be urgent, official, critical, or personal that only consists of email contact, and often especially if it only includes the parts of my name easily garnered from my email address.

Tips:
Research URLs if you have any doubt. A google search of the url name will often turn up info if it's a malicious or suspicious website.

Keep your browser settings restrictive. If you don't want warnigns for a site you visit often and that is safe, don't reduce your settings globally; add that site to your trusted sites list (or equivalent).

Use a good, up-to-date anti-virus and/or spyware/adware scanner, and a popup blocker. Keep it up to date.

More generally, keep your operating system up to date, whichever OS you're using.

As others have stated, consider the source. How did you get the URL? From a friend you trust? From a friend who takes his computer in for virus cleaning twice a year? From someone you've never interacted with before? And if froma friend, does it sound liek something they'd send, and was it something you expected to get from them ("from" email addresses can be spoofed, and many exploits and viruses can compromise a person's address book). Also, if you know how, you can examine header information on emaisl to see where it was routed. These can be spoofed, but it's less common than spoofing the from address. So an email from "mybank.com" whose first hop was through a Nigerian domain is probably not legit.

That's off-the-top-of-my-head ideas. Hope that helps
Thanks for your thoughtful response.

Clue #1 is useful unless people link like this.
Clue #2 I completely disagree. (see my 4th link) Can you elaborate how they are safer ?
Clue #3 assumes you know how the specific url should be formed. That can be useful, but many people don't know what should be there and can recognize malicious content. My example was obvious - do you feel confident it would be the same if I tried to obfuscate it ?
Clue #4 can be in the thrown in the general 'spam email' bucket, perhaps

What are your thoughts about url shorteners ? you didn't mention them
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Old 29th January 2013, 09:28 AM   #20
TheL8Elvis
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Originally Posted by roger View Post
I have an easier heuristic. For domains that I don't recognize, I don't click unless there is about a page/day's worth of discussion, and no one writes "that link horked up my computer".
I agree, that's a good one for forum or other static type of links. Let the teeming masses vet it for you
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Old 29th January 2013, 09:50 AM   #21
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Originally Posted by Ray Brady View Post
It's rare that I follow links out of the forum at all. But if you don't bother to give some indication of what's waiting on the other side, preferably with a succinct summary, you've guaranteed I will have no interest.
Same here. While on my home computer, I'm more likely to follow a link. On a mobile device, almost never, as I find it inconvenient to leave the forum, even if I know where it goes. Without a description, no chance either way.

Originally Posted by TheL8Elvis View Post
restore from backup shouldn't be too much of a PITA
Just checking - are you serious? I shouldn't worry about dodgy-looking links because I can "restore from backup" if I get a virus?
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Old 29th January 2013, 09:58 AM   #22
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For me, it isn't so much about security, but about wasting my time. I almost never follow links on my cellphone (Blackberry), as sites with a lot of images and crap take too long to load. If the poster does not tell me why I should follow the link, I have no interest in wasting my time to find out if it is interesting or not.

On my computer, I am more likely to follow a link if it appears to go someplace I might be interested in. For example, an article posted on the BBC website is more likely to be something I will enjoy than an article on Stormfront. A shortened URL or an IP address only doesn't give me that information, so I will always skip those, unless the poster indicates what is on the other side.
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Old 29th January 2013, 11:15 AM   #23
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Originally Posted by TheL8Elvis View Post
Once upon a time, in different thread, a poster posted a link and there was some controversy about whether or not to follow the link.

There were some claims made about people not following links they weren't familiar with and that perhaps it wasn't safe to follow some links.

I would like to ask all those link-following-averse people what sort of methodology they use to determine if they should follow a link, and how they know it's safe ?

Below are some example urls , they don't lead anywhere bad or to anything NSFW...Additionally, I intentionally broke them all by adding a space, so if you want to follow them, you really have to try.


http://www.exploit-db.com/exploits/23077/

67.228.115.45/

tinyurl.com/mo4ff6

1.usa.gov/OYCBM7

forums.randi.org/forumindex.php

http://tiny url.com/create.php?sourc...yURL%21&alias=
I would only follow the JREF one.
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Old 29th January 2013, 11:53 AM   #24
TheL8Elvis
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Originally Posted by NoahFence View Post
I would only follow the JREF one.
Are there any security related reasons why ?
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Old 29th January 2013, 12:10 PM   #25
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Quote:
Well, it says the word "exploit" right there, so that would be googled before I go there.
Quote:
67.228.115.45/
Eww...

Quote:
tinyurl.com/mo4ff6
Honestly, this one is just because tinyurl's give me the heebee-jeebies.

Quote:
1.usa.gov/OYCBM7
Ditto URL's that start with a number. "332_TaxHelper.Duh!"
Quote:
forums.randi.org/forumindex.php
I blindly trust everything that I find on Randi.org. Coming from you, I'd trust it, from others, it's probably just harmless self-promotion (9/11 subforum experience)

Quote:
http://tiny url.com/create.php?sourc...yURL%21&alias
Again, heebee-jeebies
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Old 29th January 2013, 12:41 PM   #26
TheL8Elvis
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Originally Posted by carlitos View Post
Same here. While on my home computer, I'm more likely to follow a link. On a mobile device, almost never, as I find it inconvenient to leave the forum, even if I know where it goes. Without a description, no chance either way.
So if it has a description, you're good ?

This link if full of things carlitos loves to read about: http://www.mangle.ca/randomweb/

Originally Posted by carlitos View Post
Just checking - are you serious? I shouldn't worry about dodgy-looking links because I can "restore from backup" if I get a virus?
Well, mostly serious. Really I am trying learn about how many of you determine what a dodgy-looking link is, and if not following dodgy-looking links is in reality any safer than just clicking on any old link.
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Old 29th January 2013, 12:43 PM   #27
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Originally Posted by NoahFence View Post
Well, it says the word "exploit" right there, so that would be googled before I go there.

Eww...

Honestly, this one is just because tinyurl's give me the heebee-jeebies.

Ditto URL's that start with a number. "332_TaxHelper.Duh!"

I blindly trust everything that I find on Randi.org. Coming from you, I'd trust it, from others, it's probably just harmless self-promotion (9/11 subforum experience)

Again, heebee-jeebies
So do you consider your methodology any more than 'woo' ?

Is it perhaps akin to the rock that keeps away tigers - if I haven't yet clicked on a link that hosed my computer, my system must work ?
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Old 29th January 2013, 01:04 PM   #28
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Originally Posted by TheL8Elvis View Post
So do you consider your methodology any more than 'woo' ?

Is it perhaps akin to the rock that keeps away tigers - if I haven't yet clicked on a link that hosed my computer, my system must work ?
woo? No. Educated guesses based on experience.
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Old 29th January 2013, 01:08 PM   #29
TheL8Elvis
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Originally Posted by NoahFence View Post
woo? No. Educated guesses based on experience.
I'm not trying to pick on you .. just trying to get to my point ...


How do you (or anyone) know your educated guesses are working ?

Do you have evidence there is something inherently more dangerous about following an IP address as opposed to a blogspot post, for example ?
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Old 29th January 2013, 01:43 PM   #30
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Originally Posted by TheL8Elvis View Post
I'm not trying to pick on you .. just trying to get to my point ...


How do you (or anyone) know your educated guesses are working ?
I never get malware or virusis viruii virusez my computer never gets sick.

Quote:
Do you have evidence there is something inherently more dangerous about following an IP address as opposed to a blogspot post, for example ?
Nothing empirical, no.
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Last edited by NoahFence; 29th January 2013 at 01:45 PM. Reason: spel chek
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Old 29th January 2013, 02:20 PM   #31
TheL8Elvis
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Originally Posted by NoahFence View Post
I never get malware or virusis viruii virusez my computer never gets sick.

Nothing empirical, no.
I generally click on any link, and I don't get malware or viruses either.

How do do you know your educated guesses aren't just the same as the famous tiger keeping away rock - ie correlation is not causation.
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Old 29th January 2013, 02:21 PM   #32
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I am very suspicious of IP addresses if I didn't ask for it. As for apps being sandboxed, that does not mean I want to let it crash.
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Old 29th January 2013, 04:02 PM   #33
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Old 29th January 2013, 04:04 PM   #34
TheL8Elvis
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Originally Posted by KoihimeNakamura View Post
I am very suspicious of IP addresses if I didn't ask for it. As for apps being sandboxed, that does not mean I want to let it crash.
I don't think I have find any links that I could identify from the url that would crash my browser.

I understand there is usually some context around the url/ip - but I think we can probably all agree that unsolicited links in email are generally bad to follow. We can probably even empirically prove that they are more likely to try to do something bad empirically.

If an IP address was returned in a search result, would that make it less suspicious ?
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Old 29th January 2013, 04:07 PM   #35
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Originally Posted by Paul C. Anagnostopoulos View Post
NoScript.

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Might as well use lynx.
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Old 29th January 2013, 04:29 PM   #36
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Originally Posted by TheL8Elvis View Post
I generally click on any link, and I don't get malware or viruses either.

How do do you know your educated guesses aren't just the same as the famous tiger keeping away rock - ie correlation is not causation.
He's not a very famous tiger...I've never heard that analogy before.

Anyway, you wanted to know the reasons why, and "Educated hunch" is as good a reason as any. I'm not current in my certs, but there was a day that I had a few. A+ NET+ and MCSE. I'd be hard pressed to map a network drive at this point but back when I could, this common sense approach was how I determined what to click and what not to click. I use that same approach today and it doesn't fail me.

YMMV.
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Old 29th January 2013, 04:36 PM   #37
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Originally Posted by TheL8Elvis View Post
Why is an IP address more questionable than a domain name ?
IP addresses are used by people who don't want or can't get a domain name, because what they are doing is illegal or questionable. Anonymous hackers, software pirates and child pornographers use IP addresses rather than domain names, because that way they can change them randomly in order to avoid getting caught.


Originally Posted by TheL8Elvis View Post
On to the heart of the matter - why ?

Do you believe if you can 'see' where it's going it's safer, or what ?
Url shorteners, are used by people who don't want you to know what you're going to. Here's a harmless example:

http://tinyurl.com/2fcpre6

Now, the only way you can find out what that links to is by clicking on it. If I wanted to send you to a site that would automatically download something to your computer without your knowledge, this would be a good way of doing it. It's a way of tricking you into visiting what I want you to visit.

Anyway, most sites now provide their own shortened links that make TinyURL and bit.ly redundant, and what was once the primary reason for shortening urls - Twitter - now shortens links automatically.

And yes, even when a link is attached to text - which incidentally is by far the best way of providing a link, for several important but technical reasons - I always hover over the text to check the address in the status bar before clicking it.
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Old 29th January 2013, 05:11 PM   #38
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Originally Posted by arthwollipot View Post


Url shorteners, are used by people who don't want you to know what you're going to. Here's a harmless example:

http://tinyurl.com/2fcpre6


You said "harmless"?!?


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Old 29th January 2013, 05:20 PM   #39
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Originally Posted by arthwollipot View Post
And yes, even when a link is attached to text - which incidentally is by far the best way of providing a link, for several important but technical reasons - I always hover over the text to check the address in the status bar before clicking it.

I know that on another forum I go to it is possible to change that too.

IOW, a poster can change what it says when you hover over the url to whatever they want to.

I'm pretty sure that is because that forum allows full html code in posts. The JREF does not allow any html code, only BB code. So it is not possible to do that here.

Just be aware that "hovering over it" is not a sure way to know what the link really goes to on all forums or websites.
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Old 29th January 2013, 05:35 PM   #40
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Originally Posted by OnlyTellsTruths View Post
I know that on another forum I go to it is possible to change that too.

IOW, a poster can change what it says when you hover over the url to whatever they want to.

I'm pretty sure that is because that forum allows full html code in posts. The JREF does not allow any html code, only BB code. So it is not possible to do that here.

Just be aware that "hovering over it" is not a sure way to know what the link really goes to on all forums or websites.
No, of course not. You can do all sorts of things after someone has clicked, for example - redirects and stuff. And I'm not talking about popups and tooltips. You can see the actual url of a link you're hovering over in the status bar. Normal html doesn't let you change that. Combined with a reasonable amount of common sense, it's a reasonable rule of thumb.

Bottom line - anything you do on the internet can potentially be risky. It all depends how much effort someone wants to expend on it.
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