Is it safe to use URL redirection service?
The advice of WiseGeek, “If your link is intended to be used for a short period of time, then redirection services are fine. If, however, you have a more permanent link that you want to post on a website, then you should realize that you are giving away valuable control to an external entity. If you want to use redirects for a more permanent or important application, make sure you trust the redirection service thoroughly."
ThreatChaos reported: “Short URLs are a threat the social sites are going to have to deal with". The article is linked to Joshua Schachter’s blog on URL shorteners.
As far as I know, URL redirection is another method by marketers, online scammers and malware authors to trick users in viewing unsafe website or download. Also, some redirection services can track if a user clicks on a redirection link provided by a friend or another user. Another issue with redirection service is to lose the page rank of the popular website or webpage.
URL redirection can contain characters to hide the page or article title. It can mislead users by sending users to another link that is not safe. Users should just go to the website or blog of the software vendor to get the new content or news about their services. It does not make sense to “follow their method" if there’s a risk in using the service. I think it’s OK to use URL redirection if the redirected page is on the same domain or the owner of 2 or more domains is one. Example: Microsoft is using http://go.microsoft.com/?linkid= to redirect their users to another page on Microsoft website. Sunbelt Software does the same for their download of VIPRE Antivirus + Antispyware, http://go.sunbeltsoftware.com/?linkid=411. The usage of URL redirection is to send their users to the current location of the download or a site instead of sending to non-existing webpage or outdated version of the download file.
This is similar reason why I don’t send users to search on their own, especially if the users are not using any method to block malicious links or rate any link within search results because search engines is another method by online scammers or malware authors to trick users to fall into their rogue or malicious works (see my article How To Check If a Website Is Safe for information about some link checking security products).
Note that even if a user is using add-ons to block malicious sites or rate a malicious links, it is not going to prevent malicious links that hide in a URL redirection because the rating system or diagnostics system will usually check the domain instead of the redirected site which could be malicious!