September 01, 2009

Don't click this link!

Today I signed in to Facebook to find a message telling me that one of my "friends" had posted a link on my wall. It was a You Tube link with the title, "WOW Video!" I was about to click on it to see what video this "friend," Kathryn, was sending me. Before I could, though, my skeptical radar kicked in, and I hesitated. Why would Kathryn, who is the older sister of a guy I was sorta friends with, on and off, in public school, more than thirty years ago be sending me a link to a video with no note of explanation attached? I mean, I knew her, and all, but we "friended" each other on Facebook because of that "friend" suggest feature: she was a "friend" of a "friend" of someone who was a "friend" of one of my "friends"...or something like that. But since we "friended" each other, we haven't actually exchanged two words. (Hi Kathryn - there, that's two).

I have this little habit I have developed over several years of web surfing. Before I click any link, I hover my mouse over it first, and look at the bottom left corner of my browser to see if the actual URL is the same as the one presented to my mouse. In this case, it was - no flag there - or was there? Sure it was a web address that had the words, "youtube," in it, but YouTube addresses all start with youtube dot com slash something, something, something. In this link, the 'youtube' was later in the address, with a bunch of random numbers in front of it. But Facebook pages are wierd, they embed other links within them all the time. I clicked on the link.

I did it, I clicked the link. I was lucky. It took me to a page titled, "Facebook Video," with a little video window on the left, and a picture of my "friend" on the right, and a message that said, Kathryn wants you to see this video. But the little video screen was black, with a message in it that said, "you must upgrade to the latest version of Flash to see this video. Click here to upgrade." I...almost clicked there to upgrade. Two things saved me. First, I have a teenaged son who uses YouTube on a daily basis. I'd seen him using it yesterday. I mean, it's possible that my Flash player needed an upgrade from yesterday to today, but that skeptical radar was buzzing again. I did my little hover the mouse trick again, and noted that clicking the link in question would download a file called setup.exe - a perfectly reasonable thing for an upgrade link to point to. I almost clicked the link. I didn't click. I have this pathological fear of exe files.

I started adding up all the little warning signs in my head, and they added up to, "danger, Will Robinson!" I deleted the link from my wall, and headed over to Kathryn's profile page to ask her if she, indeed, had sent me the link intentionally. And I wasn't the first. There were seven comments before mine, all saying, "hey! Why'd you send me a virus?"

Chalk one up for skeptical radar.


7 comments:

Dawn said...

You did Sherlock proud...

be well...

Beth said...

I read this entry on Facebook, and shame on me, I clicked through on your link. I took a chance.

Good advice, and I do the same thing with checking the URL before I click through. I've gotten so that I rarely click on the link to a video if someone sends me one, unless I know the person well. I hate to be so paranoid, but I hate even more to get a virus.

40 Year Old Atheist said...

Nicely played. Spammers, it's your move.

émilie b said...

My brother got infected, "sent" me a link to the facebook virus video.

Hey, it's my brother! He hardly uses FB to communicate with me usually, but I click anyway. And guess what?

...I have an antivirus running. My computer is set up intelligently. Avast chimes in, tells me to back off, and I do.

I like my Avast. It's nice to me.

PS. It's funny to see facebook used for sending out viruses, though. It makes sense.

Call me Paul said...

I'm using Avast as well, Em. I used to have Norton, until one of my Programmer friends freaked out on me. Apparently, one of the things Norton utilites does is install a shunt into your computer's low level information - its sub-operating system machine code - that can never be removed. Even uninstalling Norton doesn't remove this low level information. There are viruses out there, he tells me, that actually use that Norton shunt to install what is called a "root kit" virus into your computer. Root kits are notoriously hard to clean once your computer is infected with them. This guy, who writes code for a living, considers Avast to be one of the best anti-virus programs out there. And it's free!

émilie b said...

Yeah, my programmer boyfriend installed it for me, too. :D

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