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Google experiments with shorter URLs to combat phishing

Tech giant is pushing ahead with plans to clip URL in Chrome to help users spot malicious websites

Google is pushing ahead with a test to shorten URLs in Chrome's address bar to help users avoid malicious websites. 

The tech giant is experimenting with a new feature that will clip a URL domain down to just the basic address information, according to Android Police

A feature flag in Chrome's Dev and Canary channels called "Omnibox UI Hide Steady-State URL Path, Query, and Ref" hides everything in the web address but the domain name. For example, a link to the latest IT Pro Podcast: "https://www.itpro.co.uk/business-strategy/chief-data-officer-cdo/356033/the-it-pro-podcast-do-you-need-a-cdo" would just be 'ITPro.com'. 

Google has looked at this a number of times and it is often met with criticism. There is very little detail this time around, but Chromium software developer Livvie Lin suggested there were security benefits in a design document earlier in the year. 

"Showing the full URL may detract from the parts of the URL that are more important to making a security decision on a webpage," Lin commented.

While there may be some who don't like the change, there is a logic to trying to combat phishing, which has seen an increase over the last few months. With more and more people working remotely, hackers have seen plenty of opportunities to launch campaigns. 

"Any help from Google to shift out dodgy domains will be a huge help to the general public who constantly struggle with noticing a fake," cyber security specialist Jake Moore explained to IT Pro. "This will most likely reduce the likelihood of someone falling victim to a phishing email with an illicit link but it will still require some user participation. 

"Although it will clean up the address bar, users will still need to be vigilant to phishing emails in the first place and get into a habit of not clicking on any links from email however legitimate they may look." 

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