Think before you click: Beware of those ‘unmissable deals,’ they could land you in trouble!

Clickbait articles target readers who are curious about certain topics. They usually have compelling headlines and thumbnails to draw the attention of readers so as to get ‘hits’, which would fetch them more advertisements.

Sites specialising in clickbait content exist for the sole purpose of generating ad revenue. But, clickbait websites can land readers in trouble as they use unpatched or outdated software to make their websites. Hackers find these websites ideal to sneak into readers’ computers.

“Visiting clickbait websites and articles is inherently risky to users, mainly because these sites often use outdated or unpatched software, making them vulnerable to hacking,” cybersecurity experts at Palo Alto Networks.

“Some articles are just too tempting to avoid clicking on them. But often, they’re the ones you should avoid. With the holiday season around the corner, it’s only a matter of time before too-good-to-be-true deals take over,” said Anil Valluri, Managing Director and Vice-President (India and SAARC) of Palo Alto Networks, said.

“Unfortunately, a lot of these articles can lead users to pages that deploy outdated code or older versions of plug-ins. Users should be mindful and keep an eye out for suspicious URLs, and ensure that their devices and browsers are up-to-date,” he said.

Clickbait authors are getting smarter, using Generative AI tools to generate SEO-friendly content and increase site traffic.

The cybersecurity solutions firm said they had found instances of automatically generated clickbait articles on websites running plug-ins that were at least two years out-of-date. 

Modus operandi

To compromise any website, attackers must know the operating system, web-content management software (CMS), and any associated plug-ins.

“Threat actors use this data to determine if a server is running out-of-date software or applications. With this information, they can easily find publicly known vulnerabilities. Such details can be gleaned through a website’s URL patterns, HTML content and functionality,” Valluri said.

What you should do

He wanted readers to be vary of questionable sites that solely bank on clickbait articles. If a headline is too-good-to-believe, the article should be skipped.

 “A ‘think before you click’ mindset can go a long way in keeping users safe when it comes to clickbait content,” Valluri said.

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