Malicious URLs

By Ron Samson Jr

What is a malicious URL?

A malicious URL is one that was created with the intent to distribute malware like ransomware. They are often contained within spam, phishing and spearphishing emails. Often times they are disguised by URL shorteners such as Bit.ly or a modified hyperlink.

How do I identify a malicious link?

Hover over URL – the link will be displayed, if it is long and you don’t recognize the domain, don’t click

Never click shortened URLs in email – clicking links using Bit.y and other shortening services are risky since you cannot hover over shortened URLs to see where they go. They can easily be hiding a malicious website.

Look at the email overall – were you expecting it? Do you recognize the sender.

Do the email seem to focus on the link – If the email is simply a greeting a link, there is a high probability it is malicious

If it is a password change link or similar, did you request it?  Call the trusted source directly to verify it is legitimate

Why are malicious links becoming more common?

Many people click without thinking – they receive a link and click it, no other considerations taken beforehand.

They bypass most prevention systems – people offsite checking email on their phone or laptop are likely not protected by URL filtering and other services within the network.

They are easy to disguise – since most people don’t hover over links and see where they lead, it is effective for the bad actors to simply rename the links.

How do I stop malicious links from infecting my organization?

Advanced email security – today’s cutting edge email security systems dynamically scan URLs and determine whether they are safe to open. This will dramatically reduce the chance of a successful attach through the clicking of a URL.

Security Awareness Training – training users is key as they are the ones that click the links, they need to be put through real world training as well as virtual classroom training so they can quickly recognize threats

Next-gen firewall with up to date subscriptions – URL filtering can block most bad links as long as they are not unknown