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Checking HTML E-mail Links

Monday, February 23rd, 2009 by | Filed Under: Security Help
 
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Almost all the e-mails you get these days come in an HTML format. Those e-mails are the ones with pictures, links and anything else besides text. WorldStart’s Computer Tips newsletter is an example of an HTML based e-mail. Those types of e-mails are great for making easy to read and visual based messages, but they also pose a security threat.

The issue with HTML based e-mail is when they come from an untrusted source, they can be altered to trick readers. If a hacker or identity thief sends you an HTML e-mail posing as someone else, they can easily fake a hyperlink so that you don’t know where you’re going. Here’s an example:



That’s a picture from an e-mail I made and sent to myself in Outlook Express. You’ll notice that the link shows www.goodsite.com, but if you look at the status bar at the bottom of the screen, it clearly shows www.bad-site.com. If you were to click on the link, it would take you to www.bad-site.com. Pretty tricky, huh?!

In Outlook Express, you can see which page you’re going to by running your mouse over the link, just like the above picture shows. Unfortunately, it’s not always that easy. Most e-mail that’s not read in MS Outlook or Outlook Express is read by visiting a Web site. I’m sure many of you read your e-mail by going to your e-mail provider’s Web site. Well, here’s how to check where your e-mail links are going before you click on them.

Since the majority of people use Firefox and Internet Explorer, I’ll give directions for both. Here we go!

Firefox:



Internet Explorer:



Both of the above pictures show the same e-mail. One is opened in IE and the other is in Firefox. The first step in checking the link is to right click on it. (Note: You can also do that for pictures that link to other sites). After you right click, go to Copy Shortcut (Internet Explorer) or Copy Link Location (Firefox).

Next, open up Notepad on your computer. If you can’t find it, it’s usually located by going to Start, All Programs, Accessories, Notepad. After it opens, go to Edit, Paste. Here’s a sample screenshot:



That will paste the URL of the Web site the link is taking you to. Here’s another picture:



As you can see, just like the first example in OE, the link that said goodsite.com actually pointed to bad-site.com.

If you follow those steps for any questionable e-mails, you’ll always know where the links will take you before you ever click on them. If the address looks strange or outright incorrect, don’t click on it! It’s as easy as that. Until next time, stay safe out there, my friends!

~Gary

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