Web Address Basics

How to Read and Understand a Web Address

Web addresses are the text that uniquely identifies a website, such as "sandiego.edu".  They are fundamental to the way we navigate between websites on the Internet.  Since we rely on these addresses so heavily to navigate between websites, malicious individuals have devised deceptive tricks to get us to visit their website instead of the one we wanted.


When checking a link before clicking, consider the following elements.  Click on the headers below to learn more information about each element:

Visual of a web address with labels protocol, subdomain, domain and pathway

Elements of a Web Address

  • Protocol
  • Subdomain
  • Domain
  • Pathway
  • Example Deceptive Domains

Key Takeaways

  • Websites asking you to login should have https://
  • Ignore the pathway of the link – the domain and subdomain are the true owners of the site!
  • Beware of typosquatting – www.logme123.com is NOT the same as www.logmein123.com!

What if I Click on a Suspicious Link?

  • Don't panic, accidents happen to even the most knowledgable users!
  • Navigate away from the website
  • If the suspicious link asked you to enter a username and password, you will want to change the password to that account immediately, as well as any other accounts that use that same password
  • Run a virus scan on your computer. Active USD students, faculty and staff have access to a free antivirus software here
  • Clear your browser's cache and cookies
  • If a message pops up from an "IT support expert" asking you to call a 1-800 number because your computer is infected, do not do it.  This is a ploy to scare you into wasting your valuable time and money.  If you are concerned about your computer's security, call the ITS Help Desk instead!