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Are free Short URL services a security risk?

By Tim Fuell - January 7, 2011

Whether it is via Twitter, Facebook, or not even social media, the chances are that already this year you have used a short url service either intentionally or without know it. In a world limited to just over 100 characters, lengthy web addresses can limit the message you are looking to promote if your URL link is then too long.

So sites offering URLs like bit.ly and tiny.cc have had great success in allowing users to create shorter links that direct to a main page. Great, but as with everything on the internet, the more successful and popular a service becomes the more likely it will attract the attention of those who are intent on doing harm via the net – hoaxters, scammers and malware promoters.

In the past few months there appears to have been a rise in these sorts of uses. The problem is setting up a link using a short URL service is so easy and often free, so there is no red-tape to discourage would-be troublemakers from using short URL services.

Admit it how often have you just blindly clicked on a short URL in a tweet without really thinking about the potential risks that it could be a hacked tweet or perhaps even a fake account? We have almost come to accept short URLs as being fine and that sort of attitude is what scammers and hoaxers want us to have.

The BBC have recently implemented its own short url format for its breaking news Twitter stories using the .in domain (bbc.in) which is perfect as the .in gives a sense to a news related story. You can purchase your own .in here – just £14.99 per year at the moment with 123 Reg. Creating your own short URL is probably the perfect answer too. You can keep in line with your own branding – either shortened version, abbreviated to intials or maybe a nickname. Choose a two letter domain and you can feasibly have a 6 or 7 character basic short url format working off your own brand.

To make the most of your shorter URL you should also make sure your domain name works without the need for www. Check out our support article on how to set your domain name to show without the www prefix through our Control Panel.