There are billions of websites that we have access to in a matter of milliseconds, all from the comfort of our homes and the clicks of our mice. It’s an amazing advancement of our generation that is improving everyday.
Between these rapid advancements in technology and an ever-growing number of websites being added to the World Wide Web everyday, however, it can be difficult to determine which websites you can really trust.
We’ve all heard horror stories about spontaneous computer crashes because of malware and spyware infecting them from seemingly innocent websites, and identity fraud because of phishing and insecure payment pages—there are also a bevy of other dangers that many of us don’t even think about. But, hey, it’s not going to happen to you, right? Wrong.
While the Internet is an extraordinary outlet to a number of amazing opportunities that would have seemed impossible a decade ago, it can also be a very scary place— hackers, frauds, viruses, etc. could be hiding behind any hyperlink! This is exactly why you need to feel a sense of trust toward a website if you’re giving them any sort of personal information.
Whether it’s giving a website your email address and trusting that they won’t sell it to someone else, to giving a website your credit card number and trusting that they’re not going to steal from you. If the website gives you no reason to feel an established trust, it may feel too risky to stick around.
So, how do you know which websites you can trust? Well, there are a few different tools you can use, a couple signs you can look for, and some questions you can ask yourself to get a better idea of which websites are safe to surf:
Use common sense
It sounds pretty basic, but using some common sense will go a long way in protecting yourself online if you know the fundamental things to look for in a secure website.
Ask yourself some of these questions before you click on links you don’t know:
- Who sent me this?
- Is this person (or business) someone I trust? If it’s a business, are you familiar with their brand?
- Are they an established company with a long history of satisfied customers?
- Are there any testimonies or reviews available that I can read about before I use this company’s product/service?
- Do I know anyone else who uses this website or service?
- Why does this website need my personal information?
And if you’re going to make a purchase online, make sure the page displays a symbol that it’s through a secure server (HTTPS). *
Look for HTTPS
*When you visit a website, its URL will be prefaced by “http” or “https.” If you see “https,” this is a simple, quick, and easy way to determine if the page you’re visiting is providing a secure encryption and identification of the server its using to process your information.
This is especially important to look for if you’re going to submit any kind of confidential personal or payment information.
Check your link with an online service
Google Safe Browsing: If you type the following link in your address bar followed by the URL of the website you want to check, Google will let you know if that website has hosted malware in the last 90 days.
Google’s Safe Browsing service is free and a great place to start for most websites that you want to check out the security of before visiting, but there are several other services available with similar features: hpHosts, Norton Safe Web, and Unmask Parasites.
Use a website verification program
If you don’t want to check links individually like the aforementioned services, there are programs and plug-ins like Web of Trust that is a great tool compatible with IE, Safari, Chrome and Firefox that uses a traffic light rating system to determine the level of security of each website before you click the link.
These kinds of programs will help keep you safe from dangerous sites that may appear secure because they still rank high in your search engine’s results. This particular program (though you can find others through a simple search) will also give you crowd ratings of many websites to see what other people who have used the website you’re searching for say about their experiences.
Although there are a plethora of other tools and tips out there that can keep you safe while you’re surfing the web, this list should give you a great start to protecting yourself from dangerous and untrustworthy websites.