does my computer need a morning-after pill?
January 3, 2011 3:15 PM   Subscribe

Spam filter: Accidentally clicked a shortened link posted to my Facebook wall. Was taken to a .gif that didn't actually show up in my browser. Using Firefox and OSX. How do I know if my computer is ok?

Ugh, I feel like an idiot for asking this. I got a Facebook email: "So-and-So has posted to your Wall!" The post was obvious spam, containing a shortened URL from

Here's where I'm an idiot: I clicked on the link to the FB post, intending to examine and delete it from the safety of my Wall. Instead, the link to FB in my email clicked me automatically though the link in the post to some mysterious URL, a gif that did not actually show up in the browser. Aaaggh!

How do I know if my computer is ok? OSX 10.4.11, Firefox 3.6.10. I'm not completely clueless, but I'm no techie either.
posted by the_blizz to Computers & Internet (4 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Your computer is OK. But what you probably did do by clicking on the link was send up a giant flare saying HEY I'M A VALID EMAIL ADDRESS SPAMMERS AND I CLICK ON STUFF! So you'll probably get more spam than normal for a while. If you have gmail or another robust spam-fighting email provider you may not even notice.
posted by birdherder at 3:48 PM on January 3, 2011

It's also likely that it was a link to something that would have done "bad things" to your computer were it not a Mac. Not saying Mac's are free from bad things, but a lot of bad things don't work on the Mac.
posted by advicepig at 4:22 PM on January 3, 2011

do you mind posting the GIF link here as a piece of text, so that noone can actually click it but i can take a look at the actual domain? in all likelihood nothing bad has happened.

@advicepig: you are wrong. there are plenty of threats out there to mac installations. unfortunately, the combination of the pre-existing illusion of security on a mac due to its lack of popularity, combined with its rising popularity with users lacking traditionally prerequisite levels of technical knowledge, mean that it may, surreally, result in an average mac installation being more vulnerable than an average windows installation.

the only reason i posted was to suggest some extremely easy steps to make your mac installation more secure, if you haven't done so already:
  • Create a standard user account for regular use. (instructions). When you install Mac from scratch, you get one "administrator" user, which is like the god of your computer. It can do anything - read or delete any file, install or remove any application. You do not want to use this user account on a regular basis. Using the instructions, you must always create a new, standard user account, and use it for your regular day-to-day stuff. That way, when you browse to some horrifying site that takes advantage of some previously unknown bug in Apple Safari or Adobe Flash, the nasty site will be unable to affect your Mac installation in any meaningful manner. This is computer security 101 for Mac, Windows, and Linux, and I can't really think of a simpler way of explaining this. You ask: if this is so important, why don't Mac or Windows do this by default? Answer: users get confused and angry, because all they want to do is check their email and stalk people on Facebook, not get lectured about computer security. And confusion and anger don't sell.
  • Install the NoScript Firefox extension (instructions). NoScript prevents a site from using Javascript or Adobe Flash without your explicit permission, and it also protects you against acronym-soup attacks like Cross Site Scripting (XSS). With this extension installed, even if accidentally browse to a nasty site most methods it can use to attack your computer will be blocked.

posted by asymptotic at 5:35 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

oh, and use software update every week, and update everything it asks you too. since you use firefox, update it whenever it asks as well.
posted by asymptotic at 5:37 AM on January 4, 2011

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