URL Shorteners – Tweet Savers and Now…a Threat?

Many on Twitter frequently use URL shorteners to share information and direct followers to another site in the allotted 140 characters. Some original URLs are more than 100 characters long, and we know as PR folks that you can’t just throw a link on the Twittersphere without any introduction to entice people to follow-through. The words are flowing and all of the sudden you realize you’re (gasp!) at -75 characters. That’s when you really appreciate the “tiny” URL.

The application PRowl Public Relations (@PRowlPR) uses, www.tinyurl.com, takes a long URL and converts it into 26 characters with the click of a button.

Although URL shorteners are often a Tweet saver, they should be clicked with caution. Originally, your most known threat was to only follow links from sources you trusted since the reduced URL gives no indication of where you are going. Now, you don’t only have to worry about the credibility of the source (since they’re the ones making the URL), you have to worry about the possibility of hackers/worms taking the actual URL shortening program hostage.

It was reported this morning that Google’s URL shortener goo.gl is compromising Twitter accounts and spreading links to a fake antivirus site called “Security Shield.” Under no circumstance should you install this “antivirus” solution. Also, if you notice any goo.gl links are posted from your account that you did not create, you are advised to change your password immediately and run an antivirus scan of your computer.

There is always going to be a new threat on the Internet, but try to be aware of tweet styles of people you follow so you can hopefully alert yourself that something seems “off” before clicking the shortened URL. And, as always, don’t click on links from people who you don’t trust.

Happy Tweeting to you – be careful out there!

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