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Read Web Addresses (URLs) in Email and Online

This article applies to: Security & Policy

You can learn information about web addresses (URLs) by looking at some of their components.

Finding the Important Parts of a Complex Address

In a complicated address, like,
the real domain is always positioned before the first slash.

Tricks Criminals Use

In emails and on the web, criminals often create a link that LOOKS LIKE a legitimate web address and links somewhere different. The same concerns apply to links on a web page, especially advertisements.

For example, here is a link claiming to be from Cornell (as seen in a phish):

However, the underlying address was something completely different:

Test links BEFORE you click them

Hold your mouse over links (without clicking!) whenever you aren't 100% sure you trust the email or the website. If the underlying link doesn't match, be really careful.

Also be cautious of any link that doesn’t clearly indicate where it leads, like links that say (hover over these to see what's hidden beneath):

See why learning how to check links is important in the following video.

Email Phishing 101: A look at the Java phish that caught many Cornellians by surprise


What Extension Names Mean

Not all websites use .com. Here are explanations for others you might encounter on the web. 

Extension Description
.gov *Restricted for government use

Note that .gov is the only restricted extension; all the others listed are intended for a purpose, but that doesn’t mean they cannot be used for other unrelated purposes.
.edu Intended for educational use, like
.org Intended for individual or organizational use
Note that is the equivalent of .com in the United Kingdom (Great Britain).
Intended for commercial use
.net Intended only to be used by network providers
.biz Intended to be used by businesses
.info Intended for informative websites
.bz (Belize), .ca (Canada), .cn (China), .de (Germany), .es (Spain), .fi (Finland), .fr (France), .is (Iceland), .it (Italy), .kr (South Korea), .mx (Mexico), .nl (Netherlands), .ro (Romania), .ru (Russia), .to (Tonga), .uk (United Kingdom), .us (United States) Come across a country code not listed here?
Look it up in Wikipedia, or type it in a search engine.

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