Scan Those Links Before Visiting
In an era when simply clicking on a link sent to you via e-mail or instant message can spell speedy doom for Microsoft Windows users, it's nice to have yet another resource for checking the validity and security of Web links.
I spent a couple of days playing around with a free Web-based tool from Exploit Prevention Labs that lets users copy and paste a Web link to see whether it appears to try any malware mischief. Using this service should by no means be considered an "all-clear" sign to click on a link sent to you in an unsolicited e-mail or instant message, but rather an extra layer of security to help you make a decision about whether a given Web link may be malicious or not.
Exploit Prevention Labs's service checks the submitted link against a list of known bad Internet addresses. Failing any red flags at that point, the service pretends to be a vulnerable Web browser visiting the site. I didn't subject this service to a battery of tests, but merely tried fewer than a half dozen suspicious Internet addresses I was urged to visit in various unsolicited e-mail messages. LinkScanner identified two of them as potentially malicious, including one link I received via e-mail that I was fairly certain tried to exploit a known Microsoft Windows flaw and another that was apparently related to a software piracy site that tried a number of Web browser exploits.
Again, I am not touting LinkScanner as a "scan-it-and-if-okay-go-ahead-and-click" type service. But it does add another layer of assurance for Windows users already beset by a deluge of malicious Web links. There have been browser extensions and other tools made available that attempt this same task, but the nice thing about this service is that it is Web-based, so there is no need to install any software on your machine in order to user it.
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