MCC Daily Tribune Archive

Know Where You Are Going Before You Click


To protect yourself as you read email and surf the web, you need to know where links are going to take you, as opposed to where you expect to go.  Links can be misleading and so can link addresses. Criminals have tricks to fool you into going off to bad internet sites.  But consistent use of a couple Internet Skeptic tricks can help to keep you safe.

If you put your cursor over a link without clicking on it, your browser will generally display the address that the link really goes to, regardless of what the text under your cursor actually says.  This is called the "Skeptical Hover Technique".  Once you see a real webpage address (or URL), you need to be on guard against attempts to fool you into believing it is at a safe familiar site instead of a hacked site.  The essential rule is: the real hostname always appears immediately before the FIRST single slash.  Hackers may build a webpage address with a familiar hostname before the SECOND single slash in an attempt to get you to believe their hacked site is familiar. 

For example:

You may see "HYPERLINK "https://this.is.not/going/to/monroecc.edu/home.html"Click here" in an email message.  You can examine where that link goes by putting your cursor over the link without clicking.  Your browser will show you the link address.   Does it go where you want to go?

You may see an actual link in an email message.  But, just like the "click here" link, that address link may actually go someplace else.  You can put your cursor over HYPERLINK "https://this.is.a.scam/monroecc.edu/and.not.IncreaseYourPay.html"https://payroll.monroecc.edu/IncreaseYourPay.html without clicking and your browser will show you where it will really send you.  Does it go where you want to go?

Web page addresses have this general format:

http(s)://website/file/path/filename.ext?parameters

Notice the punctuation around the web site name:

colon-slash-slash - immediately before the web site name

first single slash - immediately after the web site name

Any website at MCC will end with "monroecc.edu" immediately before the first single slash.  If you see "monroecc.edu" anywhere else in the whole address, it may be a distractor to make you think you are going to a MCC webpage when you are not.  This same rule holds true if you are expecting a webpage on any other website that you may be familiar with. 

How do you use the Skeptical Hover Technique with your tablet or smart phone?  Try this. Press and hold down on a link and you should get a popup screen containing the underlying link.

Hovering before clicking and checking for a familiar hostname in the correct position will save you from a great many scams and tricks offered in your email and on the web.

This cyber-security tip is brought to you by the ETS: Cyber Security Awareness Program.

Donna Pogroszewski
Communications and Network Services
03/17/2014