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 If you’re like a lot of freelance writers and marketers right now, you’ve noticed a significant downtick of work and clients over the last 30 to 60 days. Due to that, you’re probably looking for a salaried position with either a single publication or business or an actual agency versus a writing platform. Watch out for vetting processes that contain malicious links. Just because you’re not viewing a client’s haphazardly researched link list and order directions doesn’t mean you can stop your vigilance on link checking. If you accidentally click on something malicious, you’re going to lose your whole computer either temporarily or permanently, and you could send whatever the hell was in that link on to your clients when you send them their articles. It’s a lose/lose/lose scenario, so pay attention because companies are sending bad links, and it doesn’t matter if it’s intentional or not. They should have better link protocols.

Malicious Links in the Job Vetting Process

I’ve had this happen to me twice now where a company sent me a link to answer some questions and it flagged as malicious. This means that there’s more on that page than simply typing in answers. They want access to something, or something on the page is suspicious. Remember, you don’t know them from a hole in the ground, and they don’t know you either, so this is a two-way street. They need to keep their stuff simple and non-intrusive until they either send you a business computer or some trust is built. Although, I’ll just tell you now that I still check links, especially Google links, even from long-term clients. Humans are not infallible, and even a long-term client may be tired and not give a link the due diligence it deserves.

The Harms of Clicking on Malicious Links

  • Malware - Malicious links can lead to the installation of malware on your device, such as viruses, worms, and Trojans. These programs can harm your device by stealing your personal information, deleting your files, or causing your device to malfunction.
  • Phishing - Malicious links can also lead to phishing scams, where attackers try to trick you into giving them your personal information, such as passwords, credit card numbers, or social security numbers. They can use this information to commit identity theft, fraud, or other crimes.
  • Ransomware - Some malicious links can lead to ransomware attacks, where attackers encrypt your files and demand a ransom payment to restore them. Even if you pay the ransom, there's no guarantee that your files will be restored, and you'll be at risk of future attacks.
  • Compromised accounts - Clicking on malicious links can lead to your accounts being compromised, such as your email, social media, or online banking accounts. Attackers can use this access to steal your personal information or spread malware to your contacts.

Vet All Links a Potential Employer Sends You

Run every single one of them through a link checker that scans for malicious content on the page. If even one checker says it’s malicious, move on. A potential job isn’t worth your computer, your accounts or risking your identity. If the link does flag clean, then open it on a dummy machine, AKA: not your main computer, cell phone or tablet. I have an old laptop I use to open links that are still questionable but flagged clean. That’s how serious I am about it.

I have actually had two companies send me dirty links. I backed out of the job interview process immediately. The first one thanked me. The second HR person got hostile, and let me tell you, that is one serious red flag. Either he really was trying to get my personal information, or their was a can-do-no-wrong narcissist on the other end of the messenger. Either way, I dodged a bullet.

Stay Vigilant Folks.