Bit.ly, a URL shortening service popular among Twitter users, announced partnerships Nov. 30 with security companies VeriSign, Websense and Sophos.
The alliance is designed to bring a new level of security to URL shortening, which has increasingly been abused by spammers and attackers. Services like Bit.ly shorten URLs so that they fit the character limits of microblogging services like Twitter, or just for the sake of convenience. As a result, users can click the shortened links without knowing what site they will be directed to.
Each partnership is meant to add a new layer of protection. One is VeriSign's iDefense IP reputation service. "The iDefense blacklist includes URLs, domains and IP addresses [that] host exploits, malicious code, command and control servers, drop sites and other nefarious activity," said a Nov. 30 post on the Bit.ly blog.
According to the blog post, Websense's ThreatSeeker Cloud service will be used to "analyze the Web content behind Bit.ly links in real time, using heuristic tools and reputation data to flag spammy URLs, malicious content and phishing sites." Finally, Bit.ly is employing Sophos for its behavioral-analysis technology.
The integration of the services is expected to happen during the next few weeks.
"Bit.ly is one of the largest sharing services on the Web, with millions of shortened URLs created every day," Andrew Cohen, Bit.ly's general manager, said in a statement. "A large part of our success is due to the trust users have in our service and we work hard to earn that trust by warning our users about spam and malicious content."
According to Websense, users will be able to report spam to abuse@Bit.ly and have their feedback become part of the classification and threat protection for all Websense subscribers.
"I like the approach Bit.ly is taking to check existing links in case they've become compromised, rather than simply just scanning new links added to the database," Rich Mogull, an analyst with Securosis, said in a statement. "This will reduce the chances of the bad guys gaming the system by adding a clean version of their site for an initial scan, then adding malware after the fact for future visits. This solution is a lot better than the anti-phishing built into browsers and some search engines, since those rely only on databases of previously discovered, known bad sites."