These days, it can seem as though the Internet has a scam or trap around every other corner. Whether you’re browsing the web in your free time or scouring it for work, many times you’ll be clicking on new (and therefore unfamiliar) websites when going about your day.
Certain web browsers will prevent compromised sites from downloading drive-by malware just because you stopped by, which is why using secure and encrypted web browsers is a very important step you can take toward cybersecurity in your day-to-day life. Nevertheless, these browsers can’t prevent you from downloading files or filling out contact forms once you’re on these fraudulent pages. Therefore it’s critical to recognize signs that a website is not quite what it seems, and conversely how to tell if the website you’re visiting is safe and secure.
HTTP versus HTTPS
Check out the top of this page, inside the URL box. See how it says HTTPS:// instead of HTTP? The S stands for secure. Hypertext Transfer Protocol transfers and, when secure, encrypts this information for you to view the content. It’s a semi-complex series of processes that let you view websites in a simplistic and easy-to-navigate display.
HTTPS encrypts requests and responses to prevent malicious third parties from viewing the information that you might input there. For example, you want your bank of choice to have an encrypted website that protects your username and password when logging in.
Stage 2: Intermediate Phishing Scams
While some phishing attempts are easy to spot with their various spelling errors and incorrect logos or email domains, sometimes the initial communication seems normal, so you click on the link to their landing page.
It’s not too late to maintain cybersecurity. If you’re not sure whether you’ve stumbled onto a fraudulent website or not, take a beat to slow down and look around. Assess the page before making any decisions or – egad! – giving out any contact information whatsoever.
Websites created by reputable companies won’t just throw you onto a landing page with their branding and a box for you to give away private data. Safe sites will also show contact information for the company; such as their address, email, phone number and a way to “Contact Us.” They’ll want to advertise their social media and other landing pages on their website for you to browse their services or products.
Look for This Symbol…
Next to the URL of a secure website, you’ll often notice an icon that resembles the outline of a padlock. Hovering your mouse over it, you’ll find that it says “Verified by:” or something similar, indicating that it’s been adequately vetted and received a digital certificate from a trusted third party company. Companies buy these for their web domains to guarantee that information and communications transmitted over that site cannot be intercepted by outside parties. Data is most vulnerable in transit between secure locations, thus this padlock guarantees your privacy against a man-in-the-middle attack.
The creators of fraudulent sites won’t bother securing this digital certificate, as it not only creates a trail back to their illegal activity but costs money when they’re busy trying to steal money.
It can be difficult to use the world wide web as much as you want and simultaneously protect your privacy while browsing. Ensuring that the sites you’re visiting are safe and secure will help you avoid a very common, but unnecessarily prevalent, mistake that leads to more cyber breaches than it has to. With widespread education, greater cyberattack prevention is possible.
The aforementioned tips are just some of the ways to tell if a website is secure or not. Check back regularly for more tips on staying cyber safe and secure!