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Beware the Blind Re-directs

By Vigilize | Sunday, January 1, 2012 - Leave a Comment

People Technology Policy Process

Always try to know where you’re going before you go there!

A technique called “URL Shortening” is growing in popularity now that we’ve all started tweeting in Twitter.

Website developers tend to use long URLs that represent things like data hierarchies and session information.  This may result in a URL that very long and difficult to remember, or one that is almost impossible to type, or one that stretches across two lines in an e-mail message. Copying a URL that is hundreds of characters long can garble what you actually paste into your browser.

So sometimes a shortened URL is useful to copy on an e-mail message or a forum post. Since twitter limits our tweets to 140 characters, websites such as tinyurl, bit.ly, etc. can easily convert a longer url to a short one.

For example: http://www.infotex.com/twitter/uat_workshop/making_the_point/about_blind_redirects/you_are_finally_here.html
Can be shortened to: http://bit.ly/4QQaoi .

But there’s risk in using shortened URLs; the same risks we face whenever somebody sends us a link in an e-mail message.

Shortened URLs are what we call “blind re-directs.” We can’t really see where we’re going when we click on these links. The risk is the same as links sent to us in e-mail, only with one less piece of reliable information to use in our vigilance. The key question ends up being: How do we know the sender is really who they claim to be? Sure, if we are following somebody on Twitter and we see a shortened url in a tweet that we are expecting, we can probably trust the blind re-direct. But what if the twitter account was compromised?

Once again we must be diligent. Our awareness must be activated continually, or somebody is going to send us a blind re-direct that takes us to a Phishing site or worse, a drive-by attack site.

So, though we’re not exactly ready to say don’t use them — they offer a lot of convenience — we have stopped using them on Vigilize. And we think the word should be put out that users should be wary of these little links. Always pay attention to where you’re going. Understand the risks, and don’t just blindly click on a blind link!

Click here for more information about User Awareness Training.

The purpose of Vigilize is to respond to ISO’s complaints that users never read ISO’s “ongoing security awareness training reminders.”  Our tweets are designed to be copied into the subject line of your awareness reminder, with the language on these pages put into the body.  The goal is that the user will have to read the subject line to know to delete the message, and if they understand the subject line the reminder is communicated. If not, they will go into the message and read the reminder.

Feel free to use Vigilize in your own Security Awareness Program.
Let us know if you have any ideas, suggested tweets, or ways to improve this FREE service.

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