Malicious URLs and How to Fight Them

malicious links

URLs are integral to using the internet. Operating bank accounts, using social media, file storage, and reading your favorite blog involves URLs. Due to the ubiquity of URLs, many people don’t pay attention to security before clicking them. Hackers take advantage of this fact to create harmful links to compromise users’ information or system when opened. These links are known as malicious URLs.

 

What are Malicious URLs?

Malicious URLs also known as “virus links” or “infected links” are links created by cybercriminals to promote scams, launch cyberattacks, and infect systems with malware. These URLs can be used in spam, phishing, and spear-phishing campaigns. They are considered to be one of the biggest threats to email and organization security.

These links are distributed via email, social media, text messages, mobile applications, infected websites as well as online advertisements. Clicking on a malicious URL can lead to the installation of viruses, trojans, and malware on your system or the entire network of your organization.

 

Types of Malicious URLs

SPAM URLs

Malicious URLs are included in spam emails to unsuspecting victims.

Spammers send out massive emails in the hope that many will reach the end-user and generate a return on investment. 

PHISHING LINKS

Malicious URLs are also used in phishing attacks.  Cybercriminals craft special URLs to deceive victims into clicking them.

Phishing URLs are created to impersonate businesses, individuals, or government institutions in order to steal data or hijack accounts.

Malicious URLs take victims to a malicious website or end up infecting victims’ systems and networks with malware.

 

Effects of Malicious URLs

These sneaky URLs are used for the following:

  • Steal the login credentials of users in order to access their personal or organization accounts.
  • Compromise the victim system and encrypt files in a ransomware attack
  • Execute phishing attacks to obtain personal information from victims.
  • Compromise network with trojans.

 

How to Spot Malicious URLs

Precautions against phishing are valid for malicious URLs. Links related to password reset, due invoice, account suspension, and an investment opportunity should be treated with suspicion.

 

Avoid Shortened URLs

Cybercriminals often use URL shortening services to hide the destination website. Shortened link helps to hide malicious URLs as they cannot be inspected without first visiting the webpage.  

 

Hover over the URL

The URL displayed on the web page or email may not be the actual destination website. Hackers can mask URLs to hide suspicious links.  

Before clicking any link hover over the URL to see the real website the link is pointing to. 

 

Check the Context of the Email

If the general context of the email looks like a scam or spam, it is safe to assume that any embedded link is malicious and should not be opened.

 

Too Much Focus on Links

Hackers place emphasis on victims clicking on malicious URLs via repeated calls to action. If the email appears to be all about getting you to click a link, treat the URL with suspicion and investigate further.

 

Mismatch URL and Brand Identity

If the URL included in the body of an email is different from the brand identity claimed by the sender, then you may be dealing with a bad URL.

 

Spammy Embedded Links

Some emails, websites, or documents are designed in such a way that any place you click automatically opens a new webpage.

 

 

Clicking a malicious link can spell disaster for your organization, here are some ways to stay safe.

 

Deploy Secure Email Gateway

A secure email gateway is a device or tool that is used for monitoring incoming and outgoing emails for malicious content and link.

They can be configured to block malicious URLs.

 

DMARC Email Protection

According to a Webroot report, about 25% of malicious URLs are discovered on good domains. Hence, another verification method such as DMARC is needed to secure your company’s domain.

Proper DMARC configuration will ensure that any attempt by malicious actors to spoof your organization’s domain will be flagged by email clients.

 

Install browser Security Plugins and Toolbars

Security toolbars and plugins can perform quick checks on visited websites to detect their presence on the list of malicious websites. The tools can be configured to block malicious URLs.

 

Use An Email Sandboxing Tool

Sandboxing tools can scan incoming emails on your business’ network. The links in the emails are opened in a controlled environment so the organization’s system and network are not affected in the case of an attack.

 

Security Awareness Training 

Your employees are a valuable asset for cybersecurity.  Any email with malicious links that land in an employee’s inbox can potentially affect the entire organization. When your employees are properly trained they can identify and block such threats.

 

Malicious URLs pose serious dangers to businesses. Follow the tips discussed above to protect your organization from being compromised via unsecure links. 

For protection from malicious URLs and general email security solutions for your business, get in touch with us at SDTEK today.

 

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