When browsing online, it’s all too often that you come across sketchy websites created for the purpose of stealing information or scamming their users. That said, sometimes it’s difficult to tell the difference between a safe website and a dangerous one.
To avoid phishing attacks and scams, it’s important to go through a checklist to make sure that you aren’t browsing dangerous websites. To help you out, we’ve outlined several ways to determine the safety of a website.
Table of Contents
1. Verify the Domain
These days, scammers are getting more and more difficult to identify. Sometimes, you’ll receive an email from your internet provider or an online retailer, only to later discover that it was fraudulent.
For this reason, when someone sends you a suspicious link, always double-check the URL to look for any inconsistencies. If the email is claiming to be from your bank, for example, Google your bank’s name to make sure the link provided lines up with the company’s verified domain.
2. Inspect the Website Design
Sometimes the biggest indicator of a fraudulent website is its design. When scammers create malicious websites, there are often inconsistencies in the layout that can tip the user off to danger.
To that end, you will want to be on the lookout for grammatical errors and branding inconsistencies. If you’re even a little suspicious of the website you’re visiting, that’s your cue to stay away.
3. Examine the SSL Certificate
One simple way to verify a website is to make sure that it has an SSL certificate. You can do so by taking a look at the URL and verifying that there is an HTTPS preceding the website’s address.
When there’s only an HTTP at the beginning of a URL, that’s a red flag. It means that the website you’re visiting isn’t encrypted and your activity could be monitored by cybercriminals. In contrast, when a website has an HTTPS found in its URL, that means the website has an SSL certificate, meaning its data is secure and encrypted.
4. Check Website Reviews
If you’re browsing a new website and feeling suspicious about its legitimacy, sometimes it can help to search for online reviews. Then, based on said reviews, you can better determine whether or not the website is dangerous.
If you see that they have overwhelmingly positive reviews, that’s a good sign. If you even see only a couple of negative reviews claiming that the website is fraudulent, however, that’s a red flag signalling you to be cautious.
Keep in mind that checking reviews isn’t a bulletproof method to determine the safety of a website. Sometimes, scammers will create fake positive reviews themselves or with bots. For that reason, be on the lookout for repetitive reviews written in a similar voice. This could tip you off to a potential scam.
5. Use Cybersecurity Tools
When it comes to keeping your data secure, cybersecurity tools are a must. To start off, antivirus software is a good staple. Most antivirus programs even have a feature where they perform routine checks in the background, leaving you free to use your computer while it looks for security threats.
To go above and beyond to make sure you’re secured, you may also want to use a VPN to ensure your internet connection is encrypted. This will add another layer of security to keep your information safe from cybercriminals.
Other Red Flags to Look for
Oftentimes there are both subtle and not-so-subtle red flags that can tip you off to a potential security threat. So long as you know the warning signs, you will be more assured to keep yourself safe. Here are some of the biggest red flags to be on the lookout for:
- Pop-ups: Pop-ups are the classic indicator of an unsafe website. If you are met with an array of new windows opening when you visit a site, that’s a good signal to close all windows and get out of there.
- Search engine warnings: Sometimes a search engine will flat-out tell you that a website is dangerous. When this happens, it’s a good idea to heed that warning.
- Redirects: Savvy cybercriminals are able to inject websites with malicious code that redirects users to harmful websites. That being said, when you see a site redirecting you without your permission, that’s a major red flag.
As technology advances, cybercriminals become savvier and harder to detect. Luckily, so long as you remain vigilant and up-to-date with the latest security software, you can keep yourself and your data secure. For more information on how to be safe online, check out Norton’s infographic provided below.
Image source: Norton