ITS

Information Technology Services
Information Technology Services

Increasing Email Security Standards at Queen's

The university's email filtering service has been significantly enhanced through the use of Microsoft Advanced Threat Protection (ATP). Combating malware is an ongoing challenge for higher education institutions, which is why Queen's is continuously enhancing security measures in order to better protect our community. Specifically, the Safe Links feature has been enabled across campus inboxes as of June 8, 2017.

 

What is Safe Links?

Computer receiving emailWhen a web link (e.g. URL) in an email or Microsoft Office Online document is clicked, Safe Links performs a scan to determine if the URL is malicious. It does so by rewriting the URL (i.e. http://www.google.ca) with the Safe Link. Safe Links also scans any documents within Office 365 Online at the time of click to prevent malicious file downloads to your system.

If the URL is determined to be safe, you will proceed as expected; if the URL is determined to be malicious, you will be redirected to a warning page instead. Some phishing emails include links that do not direct to a malicious website. These links will appear "safe" but may have a malicious intent. It is important to be aware of these types of emails.

Note: Safe Links only rewrites URLs in emails from sources outside of Queen's University; Safe Links does not currently protect internal emails.  

 

What are the benefits of Safe Links? 

Because students, faculty, and staff at Queen's share many URLs while working on projects, Safe Links helps to prevent inadvertent access to malware through links and attachments. The solution is seamless from a user experience perspective, and the service is unobtrusive, working in the background. 

URLs are examined in real time, at the time a user clicks them. If a URL is unsafe, the user is warned not to visit the site or informed that the site has been blocked. Reporting is available, so administrators can track which users clicked a URL and when they clicked it.

 

How does this affect me?

The change will affect you in the following ways: 

  1. You will notice that when you hover over hyperlinks, it may be difficult to determine the exact URL of the website you are being directed to because the links will be rewritten.  
  2. If you forward your emails to a different email address or copy/paste links into documents or websites, the safe link is maintained and will include your information.
  3. If you are presented with a warning page, you can choose the "Continue to this website" option - so long as you know the URL is safe. 
  4. Each rewritten hyperlink is unique to every user that receives it. Note that your email address appears in every rewritten URL.  
  5. Plain text emails will contain the entire rewritten link in the text.  
  6. Digitally Signed emails are not safe linked. 
It is important to continue to beware of phishing websites. These sites may not contain any malicious content and therefore may not be blocked (for example, a page set up requesting your NetID credentials won't contain malicious content, but will have a malicious intent). Report all phishing emails to abuse@queensu.ca. Be sure to indicate "Phish" in the subject line.

What will a rewritten link look like?

The hyperlink in every email that you receive will be rewritten and appear differently than they are currently displayed.

For example, if you hover over this Microsoft link: Tell us more...  you will see the following:  

screen shot illustrating a safe link

 

When you click on one of these links and the webpage is deemed malicious, you will see a warning message that prompts you to navigate away from the site:

What if I need help? 

If you have any issues using Safe Links, please fill out our Online Help Form at queens.ca/its/helpform or contact the IT Support Centre directly at (613) 533-6666. 

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