Information Technology Services IT Security Office
New Email Security Feature: URL Evaluations

To help keep you better protected, ITS is applying another layer of security to incoming emails. Mason's antivirus and anti-spam protection systems are now evaluating links in incoming emails to determine if they have a reputation that is unknown or malicious.

Links with reputations for being unknown or malicious will be rewritten, allowing them to be further evaluated when clicked. The rewritten links will start with ''. (Note: you will see the rewritten link only when hovering over the link or if you are reading the email in plain text.)

Links with an Unknown Reputation

Links with an unknown reputation will be rewritten for additional evaluation when clicked. Access to the site will not be blocked, but we urge users to exercise caution when visiting the website.

Links with a Malicious Reputation

Links with a malicious reputation will have a warning notification added to the email. The message will say: Warning — one or more website links in this email have been determined to be malicious. Those malicious website links will be blocked from user access. The rewritten link will appear when you hover over the link.

Please note: You may be blocked from visiting a website determined to be malicious even if a there is no warning in the email.

rewritten malicious picture

The Impact to You

You will be sent to the ITS Blocked Content page and prevented from accessing the website.

blocked website page 

What Action Do You Need to Take

You do not need to take any additional action. However, if you clicked on a link and reached the ITS Blocked Content page, and you believe the website is not malicious, please send an email to the ITS Support Center at to report a false positive for re-evaluation. 

What if A Link Is Reported Malicious But Is Not

If you believe a link was reported as malicious erroneously, please send the ITS Support Center an email at with the URL and a business justification for why the link should not be considered dangerous. It can take up to three business days to process the request.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Why do some emails I consider suspicious not get tagged by the email gateway?

Email systems use complex rules to score these emails. Spammers and cyber criminals, however, are constantly working to find ways around these technologies. Often, they are able to send an email in such a way that it does not get caught by the system.

So now that we have this new feature, do I not need to be worried about spam or phishing emails?

No technology is foolproof. This is just another tool, among many, that ITS uses to help you protect your data. As the one responsible for your data, you need to be on constant vigil regarding information and identify theft. Always use caution when clicking on a link sent to you by email, social media, or with a web advertisement.

Should I be concerned about my website being blocked?

If a site is a known-good site with a good reputation, then you should have no concerns about it being blocked. Links that are from reputable companies such as salesforce, blackboard, Google, Microsoft, Twitter, etc. will not be blocked.

The link in the email works but has a lot of additional characters in the URL. Why is this happening?

If the link still works but has a lot of additional characters included in the URL, it means the URL has been classified as "neutral". A neutral classification means that the URL has unknown risk. The link will still take you to the correct destination. If the neutral URL is later determined to be malicious, then ITS will be able to contact any user that clicked on the link.  

Are there any requirements for submitting a "whitelist" request?

If a website that you or your department relies upon is blocked and you believe it is not a malicious site, ITS can evaluate a request to whitelist or unblock the site. If the website is determined not to be malicious, ITS will permanently unblock the website. 

Whitelisting certain URLs will only be considered if a block has occurred AND it is preventing access to a legitimate webpage. Because it is highly unlikely that an established known-good site would be categorized as malicious, preemptive requests to whitelist URLs before a block has occurred will not be considered. Please contact the ITS Support Center at if you have further questions about whitelist requests.

About URL Rewriting

The URL (Uniform Resource Locator) is another name for the website address. When an email comes into Mason's email system, the URL —or link— will be evaluated to determine if it is safe or malicious. The determination is made based on information the antivirus and anti-spam system is continuously downloading about the latest threats. If the system determines the link is a threat based on its reputation, meaning it goes to a site known for phishing or having malware, then the link is rewritten to take you away from the malicious site and the site is blocked.

The evaluation of emails is not new. Mason already evaluates emails and quarantines messages suspected of containing phishing attempts or viruses. URL Rewriting does a more thorough evaluation of the links.

When is this happening?

The anti-spam and anti-virus protection system is evaluating links now.