How to Check a Website’s Reliability and Security

It is important to scrutinise the websites you visit because without having a little bit of knowledge about the security of a website you are accessing beforehand, the real-life counterpart scenario would be akin to wandering into an unknown dark alleyway at night. 

You may be pondering the following questions; 

  • Won’t my computer tell me if the website is dangerous? But I use antivirus software and a firewall; 
  • What can a website do to me? But I have a Mac that can’t get viruses? 
  • Why would the website be unsafe if I accessed it via Google’s search engine? The URL seems legitimate, and the website’s name points to a significant brand, 
  • What could go wrong? But I got an email saying I need to check this website urgently? What makes a website ‘dangerous’?

All of the above questions are genuinely good scenarios to think critically about website safety and reliability. 

Most people will ask questions when they learn that all websites are not safe, or reliable for that matter. 

For these reasons, find out below how you can immeasurably boost your knowledge about risky websites, as well as understand which ones are reliable and what can happen if you do visit a risky website, followed by general safety tips you need to follow while browsing to avoid your devices’ being compromised. 

What Can Happen if You Access an Unsafe Website

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There are several consequences of visiting an unreliable or risky website that can affect everything from your data to the stability and integrity of your system. 

In the past few years alone, trillions of dollars in financial losses have been incurred to the world’s connected organisations, institutions, and businesses due to just two cybercrime inventions; phishing and malicious software – or malware for short. 

Adding to that, hundreds of millions of random user records have been scraped and breached from all kinds of domains on the internet by cybercrime hacking campaigns, affecting the privacy and security of innocent citizens’ lives. 

Many of these incidents were caused by malware and phishing, and naive internet users unknowingly accessed dangerous websites.

Dangerous or scam websites that do not have legitimate security certificates and HTTPS encryption, or owners that are not transparent, are designed for the sole purpose of luring internet users in and applying malicious techniques that result in data theft have been popping up everywhere. 

Such easily purchased and cleverly engineered domains have caused much damage and continue to do so daily. 

Dangerous websites can look like legitimate e-commerce websites, social media portals, and practically anything else. It is easy for cybercriminals to mimic the design of a legitimate brand’s domain nowadays.

The most common path cybercriminals take is to create phishing or spear-phishing campaigns that lure users into either; downloading malware via an email attachment that compromises the computer system or clicking a dangerous hyperlink that leads to a specially crafted scam website. 

Most people are unaware of internet safety best practices, and a large portion of internet users will open seemingly legitimate emails from scam artists.  

How to Tell When you Should Not visit a Website

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There are a few ways via which to tell if you should not visit a website. These are;

  • If the address bar in your browser indicates ‘This Website is Not Secure’ (or something along those lines.
  • If the website you are visiting does not have HTTPS, also reflected in the address bar as a lack of the little lock icon.
  • If a URL is shortened or contains misspellings
  • The security certificate accessible by clicking the lock icon is not legitimate and does not match the URL address or be recognised as a ‘trusted’ authority.
  • The security certificate is valid for longer than two years or expired.
  • By using a website blacklist checker that can be found online.
  • Check that the website URL has a legitimate suffix such as ‘.gov’, ‘.com’, ‘.net’, ‘.edu’ or ‘.org’.

General Internet Safety and Reliability Recommendations

Dangerous websites, scams, and social engineering are everywhere and are among the top priorities for cybersecurity organisations around the world. 

Such fraudulent schemes are designed to extract credentials, financial information, and other personal data from naive internet users. 

Sometimes these schemes are one-hit financial theft scenarios; other times, they are just a tiny part of lengthy cybercrime campaigns, e.g., gaining a person’s trust over a more extended period. 

The most dangerous thing about it is that once a phishing scheme successfully breaches just one user, the entire network can be compromised in a domino-effect-like process.

On the other hand, phishing is not the only problem or driving force behind risky websites. There are categories of websites that you should not visit in general to avoid fraud, viruses, trojans, keyloggers, and the like. 

Such websites include; free sports or content streaming websites, websites related to piracy, illicit websites, and the dark web or Onion network. 

All of the former are traditionally unsafe and will almost always contain malware, malicious code, aggressive ads, or popups. 

These websites will also be missing what we have mentioned above; lax or fraudulent security certificates and lack of HTTPS encryption.

In general, it would be a good idea to apply the following safety principles for a much safer existence while browsing the internet;

  • Never open emails or attachments, or links, from unknown senders.
  • Browse the internet with a VPN or Tor or a combination of both for maximum security.
  • Always have a premium antivirus or antimalware program running in real-time on your system.
  • Ensure that your router has a unique password and is at least ten characters long.
  • Check the URLs you are visiting by putting them through a URL checker, which can be easily found with a simple search for ‘URL checker’ or ‘URL safety checker’.
  • Makes sure all software across all of your devices is up-to-date with the latest manufacturer software updates for reliability.
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