By understanding the anatomy of a “URL” you will be able to better understand how the websites work and how to keep safe when clicking links.
What is a URL?
A URL (Uniform Resource something-or-other) is a unique address of a webpage. Like everything else that has an address: URLs are unique.
First thing to know: The Slash /
The slash, / is a key character in a URL. It separates different sections. You need to be able to recognize the slash so you can recognize the different sections of a URL.
http:// or https://
At the beginning of every URL is either an http:// or an https://. The “s” stands for secure. This means traffic between your computer and the website is encrypted (that’s a good thing).
Safety Tip: Whenever you type a password in a webpage, before you hit enter on your keyboard, you should make sure the website URL starts with https:// and not just http://.
After the http:// comes the domain name. The domain name stretches from the double slashes (://) all the way to the next slash (/).
The “top” level domain name is the last word after the period. Usually this is “.com.” A .com is for commercial organizations. Other top level domains you might recognize are .gov (government), .org (non-profits), and even national ones like .ly (Libya) or .uk (United Kingdom).
When you look at a URL you must be able to recognize the domain name. You do this by looking at the slashes and periods. For now, focus on whatever is between the http:// and the first slash. Ignore anything after the first slash.
Within the domain name section, look at the periods, specifically the last period. The last period separates the “top” level domain from the “official name” aka the main name aka the real name of the actual business who owns this domain.
For example, how do we know that http://www.pepsi.com is owned by Pepsi? Well, we assume they bought it and that they wouldn’t let anyone else parade around with it acting like them. But, that doesn’t mean that something else can’t buy anotherpepsi.com and put up a website.
So, look at a URL, specifically at the domain name section between the :// and the first / and even more specifically right before the last period in that section, and identify whether or not it’s for the domain name you’d expect. Here’s a quiz to test your knowledge, which are probably NOT actual PayPal properties?:
a) paypal.com b) www.paypal.com c) paypal.requestfunds.com d) requestfunds.securetransmittal.paypal.com e) paypal.i-live-in-a-van.down.by.the.river.gimmemoney.paypals.com
In the above list, If you guessed C and E you are correct. If you guessed something else, re-read this article.
Here’s another way to ponder this:
a) www.google.com b) www.googlem.com c) www.yourgoogle.com d) www.google.ly
In the above list, only one of those domain names is sure to be owned by the company Google. The other two could be owned by anyone. How do we know? We look in between the 2nd-to-last and last periods, for the “official” name.
Web Page “Path”
Everything to the right of the first slash is the “path” of a webpage. Sometimes this section will be broken up by more slashes. This section quite frequently includes a bunch of apparent gobbley gook.
But it is that gobbleygook that makes it unique. The gobbleygook is why you can add a bookmark to a webpage.
Now that you know the anatomy of a URL, you can more safely evade phishing and more quickly know if your traffic to that website is encrypted or not.