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Home Bogus Warnings Inaccurate Warnings Claim ALL ‘bit.ly’ Links Are Suspect and Should not be Clicked

Inaccurate Warnings Claim ALL ‘bit.ly’ Links Are Suspect and Should not be Clicked

by Brett M. Christensen

This story was first published on April 11, 2011

Outline:
Various messages circulating via social media advise users to never click on bit.ly links because they all point to viruses, rogue applications or malicious websites. Some of the warnings suggest that the inclusion of a “bit.ly” link from a friend is an indication that the friend has been “hacked”.


Brief Analysis:
These messages are inaccurate and misleading. Bitly is a legitimate and very popular URL shortening service. While spammers and scammers do often use bitly links, it is certainly not true that ALL bitly links are suspect. In fact, every day, the bitly service is used to shorten links that lead to very large numbers of perfectly legitimate websites. Reposting these misleading messages is counterproductive.

Example:
Anything that has something like “bit.ly” in the link is a virus of some sort! Every time ya see one, mark it as spam, delete it & DONT CLICK ON IT

 

Example:
B3war3 Friends..!!Don’t Click on

=>bit.ly<= …Link..

 

Example:
friends might send you messages in chat with a bit.ly link or post a message with a bit.ly link on your wall. this is a sign that they have been hacked. if you click a bit.ly link, you might get hacked. if you do click a bit.ly link, you should change your password.



Detailed Analysis:
These inaccurate and misleading warnings circulate via social media posts and SMS. The messages advise users that they should never click on links that contain “bit.ly” because such links always lead to viruses, rogue applications or malicious websites. Some of the warnings even suggest that the inclusion of a bitly link in a message is an indication that the sender has been “hacked”. The advice is often included as part of warnings about specific malware, rogue apps, or phishing threats. While the overall warnings about these security threats may sometimes be accurate, the claims about bitly links are not.

In fact, bitly is a legitimate and very widely used link shortening service. This service, like others of its kind, allows Internet users to create a shorter version of a website link. Such shortened links make it easier for users to include long links in microblogging platforms such as Twitter which only allow a relatively small number of characters per post. They can also be useful for email in situations where an overlong URL may wrap to the next line, thereby “breaking” the link so that it will not open the website as intended.

Bitly quite quickly became one of the most popular of the URL shortening services, especially after it began being widely used on Twitter.

Given its popularity, it is true that scammers and spammers regularly use bitly to shorten and disguise links to various malware websites, scam survey sites and rogue Facebook applications. Bitly offers extra features such as the ability to see how many people have clicked on a particular link and other metrics that may be attractive to both scammers and legitimate website operators.

However, just because bitly is sometimes used by criminals certainly does not mean that the service itself is suspect. In fact, many organisations that actively fight against scams, including Australian government anti-scam site ScamWatch , regularly use bitly links. Bitly links are also used by a great many other organisations that cover a diverse range of subject areas.

Thus, spreading the spurious advice that people should never click on bitly links is counterproductive. People who take this advice may inadvertently miss out on timely information that actually helps them avoid Internet security threats.

Certainly, users should be cautious of following unknown links, but this is true of all URL shortening service links – and links in general – not just bitly links. Bitly offers browser extensions for the Firefox and Chrome browsers that allow users to review the destinations of shortened links before clicking.

You can also preview a bit.ly link by adding a + sign to the end of the link in your browser.

If you do encounter a bitl.y link that points to a questionable website, you can report it to bitly.


Importance Notice

After considerable thought and with an ache in my heart, I have decided that the time has come to close down the Hoax-Slayer website.

These days, the site does not generate enough revenue to cover expenses, and I do not have the financial resources to sustain it going forward.

Moreover, I now work long hours in a full-time and physically taxing job, so maintaining and managing the website and publishing new material has become difficult for me.

And finally, after 18 years of writing about scams and hoaxes, I feel that it is time for me to take my fingers off the keyboard and focus on other projects and pastimes.

When I first started Hoax-Slayer, I never dreamed that I would still be working on the project all these years later or that it would become such an important part of my life. It's been a fantastic and engaging experience and one that I will always treasure.

I hope that my work over the years has helped to make the Internet a little safer and thwarted the activities of at least a few scammers and malicious pranksters.

A Big Thank You

I would also like to thank all of those wonderful people who have supported the project by sharing information from the site, contributing examples of scams and hoaxes, offering suggestions, donating funds, or helping behind the scenes.

I would especially like to thank David White for his tireless contribution to the Hoax-Slayer Facebook Page over many years. David's support has been invaluable, and I can not thank him enough.

Closing Date

Hoax-Slayer will still be around for a few weeks while I wind things down. The site will go offline on May 31, 2021. While I will not be publishing any new posts, you can still access existing material on the site until the date of closure.

Thank you, one and all!

Brett Christensen,
Hoax-Slayer