Scammers love shortening, shortening, shortening

Posted by Nigel Constantine

Scammers and spammers have been having a free for all masking links to their dodgy Web sites using link shortening outfits like bit.ly.

But now the companies are fighting back and teaming up with three security firms to warn users when a shortened link looks like it leads to badness.

The spammers and scammers have been using the shortened URLs to cover the fact that the websites are really called things like russianscammerswillstealyourcash.ru

Some of the most prolific and automated of these attacks take place on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, networks that are far less useful and fun if users can't feel relatively comfortable clicking links.

bit.ly, along with Sophos, Verisign and Websense plan to look at some 40 million shortened links each day for those linking to malware, spam and phishing Web sites.

Andrew Cohen, bit.ly's general manager, said that while the company will not block the links it will send punters to a warning site first.

He said that he would not want to block a user from shortening a page on the Web because then the service could seem to be broken," Cohen said. "If you input a URL and nothing happens, you'll just think bit.ly is broken and wouldn't necessarily know we're saving you from going to the bad site."