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Why is a link in an email more dangerous than a link from a web search?

Adapted from the StackExchange Information Security forum.


Most of us know to be careful when clicking on links in our email. But every day we click on links that Google shows us. Why are links in an email considered more dangerous than links from search results?


You can generally trust search results because Google and other popular search engines have a vested interest in showing you sites that you are actually looking for. If Google produced bad results, you’d likely stop using their service.

How do search engines ensure that you see decent search results? When you enter a search phrase, the engine matches your phrase to sites that other people searching for the same phrase have found useful. As long you enter fairly common search terms, the top hits come from sites with a good reputation.

On the other hand, there are no such measures for links displayed in an email. Your email doesn’t have any idea if a link is good or not. It’s up to you, the end user, to decide if the link is safe or not based on your sense of whether the email looks safe.

For users of UGA email, there is one security measure that will help. You will see a notice on the top of any email that comes from an external sender. If anything about these emails seems “off,” don’t click!

For more advice about how to tell a bad email from a good one, read our “Does this email smell phishy?” guidelines. And feel free to forward suspicious emails to the CAES Service Desk if you have any concern.

Phishing by Jim Slatton from the Noun Project