We all receive suspicious links from phishers almost daily. Opening such links leads you to phishing websites that are specifically designed to steal personal information from you for malicious purposes. A recent report by PandaLabs suggested that there were twice as many malware attacks in 2014 than the previous year. With attacks becoming more sophisticated, a single malware injection could compromise your whole database.
You could prevent most malware attacks by using a link scanner. This is a tool that runs in the background to identify suspicious links. Each link is counter-checked against a database of known malware to ascertain that it’s safe. This way, you are protected, especially if cybercriminals have installed credential harvesting software or malware on the sites that the suspicious links lead you to.
Typically, a link scanner leverages links that have an existing reputation. Such links are flagged as malicious. After a compromised link is created, it won’t be flagged as malicious by link scanners due to its relatively unknown status. Therefore, it won’t be regarded as a threat. In the sphere of cybersecurity, these mysterious links are known as “zero-day URLs.”
When Internet users increasingly flag the link as malicious, security tools, update their databases of malicious links. As a result, the suspicious URLs and their domains get added to the databases. A link scanner is a handy tool that helps you identify known malicious links so that you avoid opening them. Besides testing the status of URLs, some link scanners also check images. However, this cybersecurity tool only offers you protection against known URLs.
Arguably, the most significant drawback of using a link scanner is that it can’t flag new malicious URLs. Since links typically get added to databases after a while, this method won’t work against zero-day URLs that have only existed for a short while. Likewise, a link scanner cannot identify and flag malicious links that are hitherto unreported. Therefore, you are still likely to fall victim to cybercriminals if you rely on link scanners as your primary tool for detecting and preventing phishing attacks.
To put this into perspective, one needs to gauge the performance of a link scanner against that of Google Safe Browsing. The latter is regarded by many in the cybersecurity sphere as the go-to database for identifying malicious URLs. Google states that its Safe Browsing feature protects more than 3 billion devices from malware by warning users when they attempt to open suspicious links.
Nonetheless, you will still be exposed to attacks if you solely rely on Google’s Safe Browsing feature to avert phishing attacks. Just like other link scanners, Google also creates a reputation for malicious links over time. Therefore, you won’t be fully protected if you rely on it alone to get notified about malicious websites.
Today, phishing threats exist everywhere. You need a link scanner that can flag zero-day malicious links as well as established links. A good link scanner is one that leverages URL reputation data and additional content regarding links in question, to deliver a safe web browsing experience. The scanner should come with a link reputation feature, which evaluates whether the link leads you to new domains or domains with low traffic.
This feature also flags domains that are hosted within a red zone. Thereafter, these factors are calculated to provide a risk score for the links. Often, most malicious links are never included in domain reputation links. This is why link scanners hardly detect them. A good link scanner assigns risk scores to URLs based on other indicators besides the link itself.
Link scanning alone doesn’t guarantee protection from phishers and other cybercriminals. To counter this drawback, ensure that the chosen tool backs its link scanner with more holistic methods of flagging malicious links. This includes evaluating the roles, relationships, and names of users, and gauging potential risks by understanding the characters of users based on their previous conversations.
Likewise, a reliable link scanner leverages machine-learning algorithms that are designed to detect and prevent phishing attacks. Suspicious links are scanned from various angles and perspectives to ensure that they don’t pose any risk to users. The links get scanned against Google’s Safe Browsing databases as well as the databases of other scanning websites. Likewise, user behavior is correlated with the email content and structure to ensure that users don’t open links that expose them to cyber threat.
Even after installing a link scanner, you still need expert advice on how to protect your network and devices from cyber threats. Do not hesitate to contact NuEduSEC for real-time advice about Internet security.