An iOS security tip: tap and hold links in emails to preview links

Today I was using an iPad and received a fake email designed to look as if it were from Facebook. It was a good imitation of the Facebook style.

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In particular, the links for sign in look OK.

Outlook on Windows displays the actual link when you hover the mouse pointer over the link. As you can see, in this case it is nothing to do with Facebook:

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How do you do this on iOS? There is no mouse hover (though it could be down with a proximity sensor) but if you tap and hold on the link, iOS pops up a dialog revealing the scam:

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Worth mentioning as tapping and holding a link to inspect it is not obvious and some users may not be aware of this feature.

The iPad is still worse than Outlook for email security. Outlook does not download images by default. Downloading the image tells the spammer that you have opened the message:

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The iPad mail client downloads all images.

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In mitigation, most malware on web sites will not run on iOS. However you could still give away your password or other information if you are tricked by a deceptive web page or fake login.

Hiding links is a feature built into HTML. The designers of HTML figured out that we would rather see a friendly plain English link than a long URL. Unfortunately this feature, and related ones like the ability to make an image a link, play into the hands of the scammers and it is necessary to look at the real link before you follow it.

A better solution would be authenticated email, so that fake Facebook emails would be detected before they are displayed. Unfortunately we are still a long way from using authenticated emails as the norm.

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