In this blog, we continuously try to caution individuals against clicking on dangerous phishing links, but distinguishing between a genuine URL and a questionable one has become increasingly challenging. Malicious tactics have evolved, making it imperative for everyone to remain vigilant. These threats are pervasive, coming from various directions. This discussion will focus on a single punctuation mark that can help determine whether a link is genuinely safe or potentially perilous.
Introducing the Most Trusted Imaginary Online Retailer in the World
Envision a fictional company that ascends to global retail and multimedia prominence, a household name—let’s refer to it as The Cost Depot.
Our entirely fictional The Cost Depot offers an expansive range of products and services. Users participate in buying and selling, managing payments, running ad campaigns, personalizing profiles, watching exclusive movies from Cost Depot Studios, handling Cost Depot Web Hosting accounts, and now, accessing telehealthcare from licensed Cost Depot medical professionals.
Our motto is straightforward: The Cost Depot – One Stop Shop for Everything!
As the world’s most trusted online retailer, akin to giants like Facebook, Amazon, and Google, The Cost Depot enjoys widespread trust. However, its massive success attracts cybercriminals attempting to scam users for money and sensitive information, much like other major platforms. With numerous transactions occurring, the opportunity for hackers to exploit users is ever-present.
The Cost Depot users receive numerous emails about products, account notifications, receipts, transactions, and offers. Cybercriminals can easily mimic these emails, adopting The Cost Depot’s branding and employing technical spoofing to make them appear legitimate. They may include links that seem to lead to The Cost Depot but redirect users to similar-looking URLs under the cybercriminals’ control.
Creating a deceptive webpage is inexpensive and quick, allowing cybercriminals to register domains like costdepot.com or costdepotcustomerservice.com. It’s crucial for users to stay vigilant and recognize potential warning signs to avoid falling victim to scams.
While methods may vary across applications, hovering your mouse over a link typically reveals its destination. Most email clients and web browsers display the link destination at the bottom of the page.
When checking for misspellings and unofficial URLs, an effective way to identify dangerous phishing links is by observing periods after the domain name. For example:
- https://www.costdepot.com/gp/help/customer/account-issues – This is safe, because there isn’t a period after the .com.
- https://support.costdepot.com/ – This is safe, because the extra period is before the company’s domain name (in this case, costdepot.com)
- https://support.account.costdepot.com/customer-support/password-reset – Again, this is safe because there are no periods after costdepot.com, regardless of how many subdomains (extra periods) are before it in the URL.
- https://support.costdepot.ru – Time to slow down. While The Cost Depot might legitimately have a .ru domain, not every business has every variation of domain extension (like .org, .net, .co, .co.uk, etc.). As soon as you get something you don’t expect, start to scrutinize even more. If a company owns their .com domain, they might not also own the .net, for example.
- https://costdepot.com.passwordservices.com/help/account-issues – This one is dangerous. This URL is technically taking you to a site called passwordservices.com. We just made that up for the example. Anyone could purchase that domain (or something similar) and spoof the URL to say The Cost Depot before the first period. It’s tricky because it’s easy to miss.
While some legitimate URLs may have periods indicating file types like .html, .pdf, .doc, etc., it’s best to exercise caution with direct links to files, as malware could be embedded. Avoid clicking on suspicious email attachments to prevent executing malicious code. Hover over links to inspect their destination, and if a period appears in an abnormal place, be skeptical. Refrain from using provided links in emails urging urgent action without first ensuring their legitimacy.
Do everyone you know a favor and share this information to improve online safety awareness. The more people know about staying safe online, the more secure we all become.
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