The Internet has opened the world to connections in every corner of the globe. But as happens with every good invention, there are humans who abuse a great technology for personal gain, financial success, or worse yet, to bully and pester other people. In the 21st century, it’s imperative to be vigilant when visiting new websites to avoid problems. Many sites contain malware, “malicious software” that is designed to damage computers and/or software or, even more dangerously, to collect sensitive information such as your social security number and home address.
How does one search the web while maintaining online safety and security? Here are some tips on how to tell if a website is fit for browsing.
Be Wary of Email Links
First and foremost, be especially wary of links that come to you via email. Even if an email seems to be from a trusted colleague, check with him or her first to be sure they actually sent the link. If there’s only a link with no message — or strange grammar in the subject — chances are the account was hacked and a spammer has hijacked their address book.
A good policy is to never open a link until you can verify the sender.
Of course, negative situations create business opportunities, and such is the case for website safety. Comodo Web Inspector and Zulu URL Risk Analyzer can both give you a sense of how safe a website may be. It’s not a foolproof system but does detect if any of the website’s pages you enter contain malware.
There are free versions that are limited by number of assessments or days available, and then both companies provide serious paid programs that offer continuous checking and other key features. Web Inspector also maintains a list of websites in which malware was recently detected, but going through it is a bit tedious.
Web of Trust [WOT] is a rating system that comes up in some reputation engines and domain blacklist services such as URLVoid. The WOT scorecard goes beyond just the numerical score to include comments left on the site by readers. While there is always the chance for deception in comments, reading through them will give a sense of the viability of the entire site. True discourse is a real sign the website is valid.
Extra Precaution for Online Purchases
Needless to say, purchasing online has inherent danger for your financial information. There are many types of Secure Socket Layer Certificates [SSLC], but not all are equal. The lowest level SSLCs do not validate the business behind the website. Reputable sites will often have a logo linking back to the organization that has certified their payment system.
For more information about SSL Certification, you can find an excellent article here.
You can verify that you are on a secure area of a website by checking the URL. The HTTP in the URL changes to HTTPS, signifying security. Of course, phishing sites may deviously purchase low-level SSLCs in order to look legitimate. Programs like PayPal are popular, as they add a layer of security to the online shopping experience.
While it takes a little effort, checking URLs before browsing will keep you and your cyberworld safe.