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How to Check if a Website is Secure with 5 Simple Steps

There’s no denying that the internet is a mix of good and evil. While it has brought about convenience in the way we bank, shop, and communicate, the internet has also birthed new avenues for cybercriminals to prey on their victims. 

Individuals and organizations store sensitive data and access personal and business accounts on their computers. It’s imperative to protect this information from cyberactors who try to steal it for personal and financial gains. 

One of the many ways these perpetrators execute their devious plans is by using malicious websites to access your computer. This prompts a good question: How are secure websites safe?

While it’s impossible to avoid websites, you can still determine how secure a website is. Let’s look at some of the methods.

Is There an “S” in HTTPS (SSL Certificate)?

HTTPS is not an alien when it comes to websites and security. It’s a pertinent factor of what makes a site secure.  and one of the first security checks to carry out before visiting a page. Nowadays, most websites start with HTTPS instead of the regular HTTP to tell you the site is secure. According to Google’s Transparency Report, HTTPS ensures that the content you view online hasn’t been altered or eavesdropped on by others on the network, like your ISPs. 

A secure site has a padlock icon beside the website URL to show that it’s encrypted with Secure Socket Layer encryption protocols (i.e. has SSL certification). 

If you’re visiting a website without the “S” in the HTTPS, your browser will ask if you want to advance to the site at your own risk. The SSL protects confidential data from being transmitted to a server. Without this certification, sensitive information is exposed and easily accessible to cybercriminals. 

 

Whether you’re logging in to a site or making payment online, make sure it has SSL. 

Find the Privacy Policy and Contact Information

Every legitimate website should include its privacy policy information on its page. This states how the website intends to collect, handle, use, transfer, and secure your information. 

While these policies are full of legal terms, we recommend that you search for words like “ data,” “third parties,” and “store” so you can understand how the site handles your personal information. More often than not, website owners include the policy document in their page’s footer. Read through it before submitting your information on the site. 

In addition to the privacy policy, take note of the contact information. Does the site provide a contact form? A legitimate website will display an email address, physical address, or phone number. Some sites even include a live chat option. Though this doesn’t guarantee 100% safety, it ensures there’s someone you can contact for assistance.  

Look for the Website Trust Seal

Most eCommerce or shopping websites use a trust seal to indicate their trustworthiness. So when you see a seal that says “Secured” or “Verified,” you can rest assured that you’re on a safe website. While a trust seal indicates a secured website, it doesn’t necessarily guarantee your safety. 

Everything is now easily accessible online. So it’s easy for scammers to design a fraudulent website and include a trust seal to make it look legit. Confirm the seal by clicking it to see if it takes you to a verification page. Don’t stop there! Research the security company that supplies the seal to determine its legitimacy. 

Evaluate the Site With Security Tools

Web browsers typically have built-in security tools to evaluate and determine whether a site is safe or not. These tools can help block malicious pop-ups, stop malicious downloads, and manage the web pages that can access your webcam. Review your browser’s security settings to ensure your safety. 

Here’s how to get to your security settings in popular browsers:

  • Chrome: Settings > Advanced > Privacy and security
  • Firefox: Options > Privacy & Security
  • Edge: Settings > Advanced settings
  • Safari: Preferences > Privacy

You can also install “is this link safe” checkers or tools like Norton Safe Web or Web Watcher for extra protection. They scan for viruses as soon as a site loads. Knowing how to check if a link is safe is important, too. Google Safe Browsing is a great place to start. Here, you can type in a link to determine whether it’s safe to visit. 

Identify the Signs of a Malicious Website

Even with an SSL certificate, privacy policy, and a trust seal, a website can still be unsafe if infected with malware. Online scammers are getting more sophisticated in how they deceive people and compromise systems. To protect yourself from malicious websites, it’s vital to identify the various ways hackers can execute their devious plans. Below are some tactics you should know:

Phishing

Most online scams nowadays involve phishing. Cybercriminals disguise themselves as legitimate sources to lure people into divulging sensitive information. They can send you a phishing email or link that leads to a malicious website. Humans make mistakes. So it’s possible to click on a malicious link before realizing it. 

Check out our blog on what to do if you click on a phishing link

Third-Party Content Injection

This is the method of modifying content in a connection. Third-party content injections can be harmless. But if a website isn’t protected, hackers can leverage this vulnerability, using it for malicious links or ads.

This usually happens more easily on websites that lack SSL, and the best prevention is to ensure the website is secure before interacting with it. 

Phishing Kits

This is the web component of a phishing attack. Even beginners can execute a phishing attack with phishing kits. They replicate websites you visit often (including banking or social media login pages) to trick you into submitting your credential details. While such a site might appear legit, its URL and common spelling or grammar mistakes indicate otherwise..

Malicious Redirect

If you enter a URL and end up on a suspicious website, you’ve been a victim of a malicious redirect. This mostly happens when you click on a link to download software or media content. When this happens, close the page immediately to prevent malware infection.

Malvertising

Malvertising involves using online advertisements that result in malware distribution, compromising systems. This can come as ads or pop-ups on a site you visit. Double-check an advert or pop-up to avoid downloading ransomware or other types of malicious programs. Look out for grammatical and spelling errors, promotion of discounted or free software downloads, and ads that don’t match your browsing history. 

SEO Spam

This is also known as Spamdexing. It’s a tactic where hackers plant malicious links on your website or blog, usually in the comment section. 

Final Thoughts

The internet is an innovation that has countless benefits and makes life easier But always tread carefully. Make a habit of checking how secure a website is before interacting. This especially applies to websites requiring personal information or login details.

Install a good antivirus and update it regularly. Check if a website is secure by looking at its URL and SSL. Read the site’s privacy policy and avoid clicking links that look malicious. Don’t forget, if it’s not secure, it’s not safe.

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