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URL Shortening May Lead to Risk

According to a security investigator at Websense, a Web security firm, organizations are increasingly reaping maximum advantage from the strength inherent in blogs, social-networking websites, Twitter as well as other Web 2.0 mechanisms to enhance the communication level with their partners and customers; however, in case adequate protection is not deployed, it could lead to insurmountable Web-related threats.

States David Meizlik, director for Web and Data Security at Websense, that twitter users, for instance, "follow" their favorite news outlets, friends, customers, business associates and others. But, since the site restricts such messages known as 'tweets' to only 140 characters, a lot of users resort to URL-shortening services like tinyURL or bit.ly when they wish to share a web-link with others, reported Business Week on October 29, 2009.

However, with the link-shortening exercise, a URL's original character becomes camouflaged to the user. Moreover, since shortened URLs are commonly shared among friends and other contacts on social networking sites like Twitter and blogs, and thus people don't even think twice before clicking on them.

Furthermore, cyber-criminals are now using condensed URLs to lure unwitting computer users into clicking their malevolent links.

Additionally, accounts created for automatically chasing new followers are foremost in the campaigns initiated by spammers and robotweeters. This is because the accounts increase the follow counts, while some cyber-miscreants pay the accountholders to spam junk e-mails from their accounts, in anticipation that a proportion of the total audience, even if small, would click on the malicious links in the e-mails.

Say experts that such a business has an adverse effect on the overall business as it erodes people's trust in genuine online marketing and advertising.

Meanwhile, Websense believes that in the absence of security of Web 2.0 content, which otherwise enables to understand the direction of the link and the nature of content on the related web-page, malevolent shortened URLs are likely to keep on inflicting both consumers and businesses.

Also, with the system of URL-shortening, there has emerged a mighty ground for spammers to breed. According to Symantec's MessageLabs, such criminals are currently exploiting people's interest in healthcare reform and Swine Flu to spread huge volumes of shortened URLs.

Related article: URL Distributing Gumblar is No.1 malware Site Says Google

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