URL Shorteners & How They Can Be Used Against You

URL Shorteners are online services that convert lengthy URLs into short few characters long URLs.
For example a complex URL like https://example.com/example-web-page/1462637845968 is converted into simpler, exam.ple/egdhh123.

This is quite useful if you are tweeting the link or sending it via any medium where there is a text restriction. The uses are immense but unfortunately they are most used by people with malicious interests who want to hide what they are actually sending to you.

Such shortened URLs can be used to redirect you to a malicious website, an IP logger, a Spyware website or simply some horrible website.

They can also be used to hijack your Facebook Group, or force you to click advertisements or turn on your camera etc.

This is most widely used to trick people into visiting a URL which will reveal their IP Address.

Read: How To Trace Someone’s IP Address on Facebook.

I am giving a short demo below:

First I randomly messaged this person on Facebook.
I started with small talk. I had already studied his profile thoroughly and was well aware of his interests, hobbies etc. so small talk was a piece of cake.
Then when he started trusting me, I sent him a link to website that I was sure he will like.
A day later I again sent him a link to the website this time it was shortened using http://goo.gl.
He again clicked it without any suspicion.
With goo.gl’s default tracker I was able to trace his country.
The next day I sent him a tracker code using Grabbify.
He again clicked it and I was able to trace his IP Address.
I cross checked his IP with the country from the previous day.
Since they were the same there was a strong chance that that was his real IP Address and not a proxy.

Now that you know how easy it is to reveal your identifiable information it is important to arm with the knowledge to foil any such attempts.

As mentioned earlier Grabbify is an awesome tool to grab someone’s IP Address but it is even more awesome to find out where a shortened URL is leading you.

Here’s a demo:
First we select any website, for example: http://bluesphereobserver.com/.
Next we select an IP Logger Software, for example: Basze IP Logger.
We enter the website URL and get the tracking URL.
Then we shorten it by goo.gl to get: https://goo.gl/LN6RvH

Now if you click that link it will take you to http://bluesphereobserver.com/. and you won’t notice anything suspicious.

Here’s where Grabify Link Expander comes into the picture.

When you receive any shortened link, do not click on it. First copy the link and then using Grabify Link Expander find out where all it is taking you.

When you visit the Link Expander, you will be asked to enter a shortened link, paste the copied link there.
It will give you all information about where you are being redirected.

Here’s the result of the link we had prepared:

You can clearly see that it has displayed the blasze.tk tracking link which should not be there unless someone is trying to trace your IP address.

Using it you can also directly view the intended webpage without going through any re-directions.

The standard safety standards require you to expand any shortened URL you get before clicking it.
This simple step can help a lot of people to maintain their privacy and anonymity.

Apart from that it is always suggested to use a VPN [Virtual Private Network] during any general browsing or research. a VPN not only redirects your traffic through an external server thus hiding your real IP address but it also encrypts your internet connection.

There is no risk in doing doing Net Banking while using a VPN but there is a chance that your Bank will ask you to confirm the log in attempt via an OTP.

Author: Rohan Dandavate

Email: rohan_dandavate@riseup.net
Public Key: [http://bluesphereobserver.com/rohan-dandavate/]

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