Sometimes when you open up an email the first thing that pops out at you is a blue hypertext transfer protocol link. Blue, in the default mode, means that this is an active link. Active links can be dangerous, especially if you do not know who the sender is.
Why are some http links blue in Windows live mail? There are three common default link colors for HTTP (hypertext transfer protocol): black, blue and purple. A black link is one that is not live by default. This type of link has to be physically copied from the email and pasted into the browser bar. A blue link is an active (live) link that allows you to simply click on the protocol to launch a new tab or window containing the destination site. A purple link usually indicates that you have already visited the site and there is a cookie on your computer that remembers you being there.
Image courtesy of ePbulicist @ FlickR.com
Dangers of Blue Links
Live links can be extremely dangerous. Clicking on a link from an unknown sender could launch a virus, worm, adware, spyware or other malicious program on your computer. Because the blue link is live, it only takes one click to cause this kind of damage. The site that is opened might minimize or hide the program that is being downloaded so that, if you are not paying close attention, you might not even realize that it happened.
Blue links are far more likely to contain links to virus-laden sites than a simple black link. The black link requires a user to actually perform three physical acts to get to the site. People who are deploying viruses want to make it as easy as possible for you to spread it – thus the choice of a live link and why some http link are blue in Windows live mail.
To eliminate the potential dangers of blue links in your email you can use the default settings in your email program. In Windows Live Mail, the active links will be blocked unless you specifically enable them. Clicking on an active blue link in Windows Live will prompt you either to enable the link or to leave it as is.
When Blue Links are Okay
Don’t let me discourage you from clicking on those blue links though. There are plenty of reasons that those blue links are good. For example, if you sign up for a special program through your bank or a retail site they will want to verify your email account by sending you a verification link. This will be a blue active link that you can click on to verify that you are the owner of the email address. Of course, you could cut and paste the link into your browser but these links are often very long and it is easier to just click the link.
Another time that it would be okay to click the blue link is if you know the sender. Unless the link looks like something out of the ordinary, it is probably ok to click. In some cases, the link will take you to an online photo album or the location of a specific downloadable image that your friend has set up to share with you. This is often done by Shutterfly.com.
There are several reasons why some http links might be blue in Windows live mail, some good some bad. Just be careful when opening links in your email and if something does go wrong make sure you have a way to restore your system.
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