Security company McAfee has introduced a web address shortening service that automatically checks the content of the site for which it is providing a compressed web link, popping up a warning should the site in question turn out to be suspect.

McAfee has introduced the verified web link tool in response to a number of security threats related to existing link shorteners.

More and more people are sharing links on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, explained Marc Vos, McAfee’s senior manager for global product reviews, but there’s often no way of telling what the link you click on is going to lead to. This has played into the hands of malware writers, as it’s all too easy to suggest a link to something that either redirects to an infected website or one that shows adult content, for example.

McAfee secure web link example Users wanting to provide a secure short link to a site can browse to, enter the name of the site to which they want to direct their friends and then share the resulting link. Web links created in this fashion start with the mcaf prefix. For example, a short link to the PC Advisor home page would appear as

These secure links can then be shared directly from the site on Facebook and Twitter. When a friend clicks on the link, the software performs a second check on the integrity of the site it’s linked to, just in case a substitute site has been inserted since the link was created.

The free link-shortening and checking tool works hand in hand with McAfee’s Site Advisor. This takes the form of an extension or add-on for a web browser that displays a traffic light warning if a site the user is about to head to is suspect.