Stay Safe Online – Domain Names

Affirm IT Services Ltd – Stay Safe Online – Blog Post

One of the most common questions that IT professionals get asked on a day-to-day basis is: “How do I stay safe online?”

On the surface this seems like a very simple and straightforward question; however, it is also oftentimes prefaced (or appended) with the conditions “for free” or “without slowing the computer down”.

What Is A Domain Name?

Domain names are key parts of any internet address because they indicate which company owns the website that you visit. Some easy to understand examples of this are:

WebsiteDomain Name
Googlegoogle.com
Wikipediawikipedia.org
University of Manchestermanchester.ac.uk
German National Tourist Boardgermany.travel
Affirm IT Services Ltdaffirmit.co.uk


Businesses or organizations purchase these domain names and so, as a result of this, only they are allowed to use them (they can’t be used externally). This means that if for example, you go to “wikipedia.org”, you are going to end up on the official Wikipedia website. Likewise, if you click on a link for “affirmit.co.uk”, you are going to end up on the official website for Affirm IT Services Ltd.

What Is A Sub-Domain Name?

The short answer to this is that a sub-domain is anything that comes before the actual domain name.

One of the primary examples of this – which we are all used to – is the “www” subdomain. For many people, the “www” subdomain is synonymous with their perception of the internet. So, as a result of this, if they see a website that has a subdomain that is not “www”, they are immediately sceptical of it.

However, if you trust a website and are sure that the link pertains to their official domain name, the choice of sub-domain shouldn’t matter. Take for instance, “affirmit.co.uk”, we know that this is the official domain name that is owned by Affirm IT Services Ltd.

So, if any sub-domains were to be added to this domain name, they would still be legitimate. For example “help.affirmit.co.uk”, “shop.affirmit.co.uk”, or “support.affirmit.co.uk”.

How Is This Abused?

So, how is this abused if we’re still safe no matter what comes before or after a legitimate domain name?

Well, individuals or organizations that have malicious intent aren’t interested in actually using the legitimate domain name. They just want to get close enough to the real domain name to create confusion and get you to click on their link.

Going back to the previous example of Affirm IT Services Ltd and the official “affirmit.co.uk” domain name, here are some ways that people with malicious intent could cause confusion:

  • support-affirmit.co.uk
  • affirm-it.uk
  • affirmit.tz

Always Visualize The First “Dot” As A Part Of The Domain Name

There is a very useful technique that you can use to eliminate a lot of potential confusion when it comes to domain names – remember the dot.

Particularly, you should always try to visualize all domain names as starting with a “dot”. So, once again going back to the previous example of Affirm IT Services Ltd’s official domain name. Instead of seeing it as “affirmit.co.uk”, it is better to visualize it as “.affirmit.co.uk”.

This simple technique gives you the ability to quickly differentiate between an official domain name and a malicious one.

Remember To Keep An Eye Out For Sneaky Tactics

Even if you are fully aware of the official domain name of the website that you want to visit, there are still tactics that malicious users can use to get you to visit their links. One of the most common techniques that they use to do this is to simply obfuscate their link and make it seem wholly legitimate.

Malicious users can turn images and text into hyperlinks that can carry you to a website that you did not intend to go to. Don’t worry, there is a very easy way that you can effortlessly circumvent this. All you have to do is to hover your mouse cursor over the link and pay close attention to the text that pops up.

For example, the link below may look identical to the official domain name for Wikipedia but take a closer look before you click on it.

Link: Wikipedia.org

It has been edited to take you to the homepage of the official Affirm IT Services website!

Want to know more about how to stay safe online, we offer training to all of our customers? please get in touch 0115 753 0123

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