Determining Whether Links in Pop-Up Messages are Safe

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This Information is Intended for: Faculty, Staff, Students
Last Updated: August 11, 2020
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What are Pop-Up Advertisements?

When browsing the internet, you might occasionally receive unprompted advertisements that "pop-up" in a new window/tab. Generally speaking, pop-up advertisements are not safe and you should avoid clicking on them. Pop-ups you should be especially wary of:

  • Pop-ups that claim your computer is "running slowly" or "is infected"
  • Pop-ups that promise something "too good to be true" (i.e., "You've won...", "You're the millionth visitor...")
  • "Clickbait", 'articles' with vague headlines that encourage you to click on them (i.e., "X Celebrity Found Dead, Click Here for Whole Story", "10 Ways to Save $1,000; You Won't Believe #4")

Pop-up advertisements seldom deliver on what they promise. Nearly all pop-up advertisements link to:

  • Phishing/Survey sites - Fraudulent websites that mimic legitimate ones, they're designed to trick unsuspecting users into entering their information (i.e., a phishing website might look like the login page for your bank account, with the goal of collecting your banking information)
  • Malware - Clicking on pop-ups often allows third-parties to download malicious software on your computer; putting your data at risk

I've Received a Pop-Up Advertisement, What Should I Do?

If you receive a popup advertisement - DO NOT CLICK ON IT

The best way to close a pop-up message is with the shortcut keys (Alt + F4 for Windows/Linux users; Command+Q for Mac). By doing this, you avoid clicking on the advertisement completely.

Popup advertisements should be relatively rare - if you're receiving several pop-up advertisements in a day, it could be a sign that your computer is infected with malware. How to determine if your computer is infected


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