The virtual world has been the greatest innovation of the last century. But, like the two sides of a coin, the online world is fraught with dangers lurking. One of the most feared threats is if a device can be hacked or compromised, simply by clicking on a malicious link. Can you click a random link to install viruses and other malware on devices? If yes, how do you stay safe from these malicious links?
Everyday users receive various links to click through emails, text messages, messaging, etc. Most of these links are safe because they come from reliable sources. But cybercriminals can impersonate trusted sources, for example through a spoofing attack. They can then tempt you to click on a similar link that looks trustworthy but actually contains malware.
The following article looks at the dangers and solutions.
Malicious link threat
Phishing is a commonly understood malicious link intended to direct users to a fake website under the control of scammers.
Often times, scammers create impersonation of a legitimate website and expect innocent users to separate themselves from their login credentials by entering these details. The threat can be fixed by looking at the URL bar carefully enough.
But, if you click on a malicious link, can you catch the virus automatically or will you have time to recover from the serious threat? The answer to the question depends on the type of link created and sent by the hacker.
If the link you click contains malicious payloads, it is entirely possible that you are downloading malware or virus onto your device. The same is true, even more so if your device is not running on its latest version.
This is because outdated systems and applications often have vulnerabilities and can be a serious bug. According to the latest reports, 70% of data breaches could have been prevented by fixing vulnerabilities.
The easiest way is to regularly run updates on all your apps and make sure only the latest software is installed on devices.
On the other hand, if the link does not contain malicious code/payload, you will most likely be redirected to a phishing website intended to collect credentials or entice you to download malicious software as genuine. You can avoid a threat by exiting the browser or turning off the device.
When you click on unverified links or download suspicious apps, your risk of exposure to malware increases.
Malware has an adverse impact on the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of information systems. They can inflict catastrophic damage as shown below:
- Keyloggers can monitor every keystroke, and thus can be used to collect login credentials, card details, PII, etc.
- A Remote Administration Trojan (RAT) can install various other types of malware and can be used to access the microphone, camera, etc. of a device.
- The ransomware can encrypt files and demand a ransom for returning access to those encrypted files.
- Hackers use malware to secretly use the device’s capabilities to mine cryptocurrencies, slowing down your computer.
Please check the email address carefully – You need to look at the email address carefully to avoid being a victim of phishing emails. Most often, emails are used to make users click on a malicious link or to download malware in the form of attachments.
Be on the lookout for phishing filings – your financial institution knows your name and other crucial details. Therefore, the greeting like “dear customers” and similar variations used by an entity is a red flag.
Beware of urgent deadlines – creating a sense of urgency is the most commonly used method of getting you to do something that doesn’t suit you, like clicking a malware link or downloading malicious attachments, etc. Therefore, be careful if deadlines force you to complete a task without proper verification.
PII Disclosure: If an email asks you to provide personally identifiable information like phone number, current address, etc., be extremely cautious. This is because, in most cases, hackers collect information about their potential target and misuse it later for malicious purposes.
Therefore, clicking on the links may initiate the automatic download of malware on your device, which can create a path for hackers to compromise your device.
You become more vulnerable if you don’t update your software to its latest versions, as it leaves them exposed to various exploitable vulnerabilities.
Therefore, these updates are extremely important and the common user becomes reasonably confident by deploying these patches in real-time.