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Analysis / Security

Sophos And Bit.ly: Making Short Links Safer

Shortened URLs

Here’s some good news if you’re one of the millions of people who have come to depend upon shortened urls in your day-to-day life. bit.ly, isn’t just the default link shortening service used by Twitter, it’s also widely used on other social networking sites and communications as a handy way to shorten a link. For instance, bit.ly will convert a link such as:


to the much more manageable:


Today, bit.ly announced that it was partnering with Sophos (and our friends at Verisign and WebSense) to offer additional protection to users clicking on short bit.ly links to defend against the possibility of them visiting a webpage created by spammers or phishers, or infected with malware.


And that’s important, because our research shows that spam, malware and phishing is far from uncommon on social networks.

bit.ly already does some great work filtering links to see if they might be malicious or objectionable, and provides the ability the users to preview the final destination of the link by adding a “+” to the end of any bit.ly URL, but partnering with security vendors such as Sophos should offer an even higher level of protection in future.


Of course, it shouldn’t be forgotten that bit.ly is just one of many URL-shortening services out there – and I’m not aware of any which are currently working as hard to fight the bad guys as bit.ly are. It’s possible that the cybercriminals might switch their focus to other less well-known URL shorteners when planting traps for unwary users – so now is not the time to let your guard down.

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Graham Cluley is one of the world's leading experts in viruses and spam, and works as Senior Technology Consultant at Sophos. He has given talks around the world at events such as EICAR, ICSA, Virus Bulletin and the European Internet Security Forum on the virus threat, and is a respected industry expert. Before joining Sophos in 1999, Graham worked in a number of roles in the anti-virus industry. In 1992 he joined Dr Solomon's Software developing the first Windows version of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit and later becoming product manager for the launch of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit version 7.0. When Network Associates acquired Dr Solomon's in 1998, Cluley was made Senior Technical Manager of NAI Virus Labs.