More On URL-shortening Services And Security

By | April 12, 2004

It’s not necessarily a gloomy outlook for URL-shortening services like TinyURL and SnipURL.

In my previous post I explored the possibility that these services might be used, or might already have been used, by scammers to disguise a malicious link. The fear is that as they get more popular, and users unthinkingly click on them, they are used to conceal links to websites downloading malicious code, or containing dodgy material. But is there a possible happy ending to this?

Is there a way of turning the URl-clippers into services that help make the Internet more secure? Perhaps one way round this is for the services to offer ‘secure linkage’ where every link they process is vetted first for any or all of the above — fraud, malware, illegal or offensive material. Only then is the link passed onto the recipient.

Either the recipient or the sender could pay for this process: The recipient because they want to know that every email, or chat message, or even webpage they access has been thoroughly vetted, or sender because they want to reassure the recipient their content is safe and clean. The service itself runs every link through the same anti-virus, anti-fraud, anti-suspicious activity filters that Internet security companies use, and only then do they shorten it. That way the brand of the URL-clipper becomes a stamp of reliability.

Or is someone already doing this, and I just haven’t noticed?

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