We have all done this at one time or another I’m sure.We click on a link to a website and once there wished to hell we hadn’t done that. (This page has been updated)
Before we could get off that site it has downloaded a bunch of malware and the computer is starting to act really strange now.Well after kicking ourselves in the butt we settle down to the task of cleaning up the mess.
But what if there was a way to know how to tell if a website is safe or not. Well, there are some things we can look at before we click on that bad link. Here in this article, we will cover all the ways to make sure, or at least try to make sure it is a safe website.
Shortened URL’s address:
Have you ever seen short web addresses such as (http:/tinyurl.co/j345) in people’s tweets, or maybe in a post on Facebook. Maybe you have come across them in an email, or you use them yourself? Well, the reason people like to use a shorter version of a link is so they can fit it into a Twitter post.
Which is fine, but hackers also like to hide their true addresses by shortening them. This is done so you can’t see where the link is going to take you.
And once you click on that link, you’re well on your way to downloading malware or infecting your computer with a virus. They also like to use this form in their phishing emails, where they can then install Ransomware and encrypt your data files and ask for money to unlock them. You can read more on Ransomware here, to find out how to avoid this.
Let’s take a look at an example:
Here is an example of a long link that has way too many characters to use on Twitter or for that matter anywhere else. (http://www.pcmag.com/news/349095/how-to-launch-windows-without-entering-a-password?mailing_id=2346702&mailing=whatsnewnow&mailingID=639A694CF2A45D5FA39CD058A39BADBB). This one has a total of 164 characters but it can be shortened to just 26 as seen below.
Now by using TinyURL, we have shortened the link to just 26 characters: http://tinyurl.com/j254jzk and as you can see it doesn’t tell you anything about who it’s from or where the destination is taking you.
So as you can see that the link is extremely smaller, but doesn’t tell you anything about where it is going to take you. It looks harmless enough; you might even be tempted to click on it. But beware; it could very well be a link to some nasty malware.
So what can you do about this? Well, you can use a site like UnTinyURL where you just copy and paste the link into their search bar and hit return. This will then return it to its real address where you can look it over and make sure it is what you thought it was.
This way if you see something funny about it like, say it has a bunch of strange characters in it like %,#,^,*, and so on. Well, this should be a red flag and require a closer look-see! 🙁
This is just the thing the bad guys like to use to hide their identity and the malware they hope to infect your computer with.
Now you’re probably thinking, well great, now what do I do with it. Well if you’re still interested in clicking on it, you can take that URL and paste it into a website tool that will check the address for any known malware and if it is safe or not.
Tools to Verify a URL:
With these tools, you can enter the website address and check to see if it has been reported as having malware and other things to help you determine whether or not it is safe to click.
Google is always trying to make your browsing as safe as possible for you, which is why I like using Google Chrome. They state that they examine billions of website every day looking for unsafe ones and find thousands of them.
Some of them are legitimate sites that have been compromised. And when they detect the unsafe sites they show warnings in their search results. Here is the web page Google Transparency Report: where all you have to do is copy and paste the URL into the search bar, hit enter and read the results.
Norton Safe Web is another great place to check website legitimacy before you click on it, and is done the same way as above.
Webinspector is yet another one where you can copy and paste the website address into a search bar. It will then perform several scans and then take you to a report page where you can see a list of the scans and their results. Zulu URL Risk Analyzer is another good one you can use.
So as you can see, there are several sites that you can use to check any suspicious URLs that you come across. One idea would be to take any one of these, or all of them for that matter, and make them easy to get to by saving it in your browser’s favorites list for easy access when needed.
If you’re someone that comes across strange looking URLs a lot and have an itchy click finger, you might want to get in the habit of using them to stay on the safe side. 🙂
Is the site secured using encryption?
Before visiting a site and entering any personal information such as credit card numbers or bank account information. Take a moment and look at the start of the address to see if it has the (s) added to the (HTTP). It should look like this (https).
Now if you’re using Google Chrome or one of the other popular browser you can check out the sites results by clicking on (i) that will be located to the far left of the address.
Click on “details” at the top and this will give a report of all the pages on that site that look problematic. Such as website permissions, and security certificate information.
If the site is secure it will show with a green padlock in the place of the (i), and by clicking on it, you will see that it is listed as a secured site. Whatever you do, if you don’t see a padlock, do not enter any vital information including passwords on the website, hackers love to exploit these sites for their information.
Mimicking existing website addresses:
Hackers like to try and trick you into clicking on a link that actually looks like a legitimate website address, one that you are familiar with. This way they hope you won’t take time and look at it closely and notice that one letter or number is off from the original.
For example, they like to use popular websites like Amazon, PayPal, Microsoft, and so on. All they have to do is purchase a domain name such as PayPal.co.com. You will notice that it looks legit except for the added .co before the .com.
And by using this in their phishing emails they try to get you to click on the link to take you to their site where they will ask you to update your information.
So, once you click that link you’re off to their phony site that could be loaded with malware and viruses. And once there, they will be asking you to enter your private information to verify something.
Once they have your information skies the limit for them. 🙁 🙁
So with that in mind, if you get an email from one of your online vendors or even from your bank requesting updated information or whatever. And the URL looks fishy, do yourself a favor and
And the URL looks fishy, do yourself a favor and Don’t click on the link.
What you will want to do is type the website address that you have on file into the browser, or even use the one you have bookmarked for that vendor or bank.
What if it just says Click Here?
Take time and look at the address for anything that looks fishy or out of place. If it happens to be something like “click here” where you don’t see the address, you can hover over that link without clicking it. The address will appear in the lower left corner of your browser window.
Look at it closely, and if you’re unsure about it then copy and paste it into one of the sites I mentioned above to check it out before clicking on it!
To copy the address safely all you have to do is right-click on the link and in the context menu that appears select the “copy link address”. This way it is saved to your clipboard and you can paste it into the search bar of one of the above sites, Safely!
The conclusion to How to Tell if a Website is safe.
So whatever you do, take the time to look at the URL before clicking on any of them that you are not 100 percent sure to be an original URL. Especially website address you come across on your Social Media sites and in your emails.
Those areas are places that the Bad guys love to promote their Malicious sites, they know just how trusting we can be as humans. We also are in the habit of acting quickly without thinking too much; they know how to prey on our weaknesses. So let’s all do our part to protect ourselves and stay safe while on the internet.
And above all do not enter any personal information (account numbers, bank info, credit card #) when your on a website that does not have the Green Padlock!
Also, it is a good idea to keep all of your software (especially your Antivirus) up to date with security patches.
Have any Questions or Comments about Knowing Whether a Website is Safe or Not?
If you know other ways of detecting bad sites, why not join in the discussion here and share them. Also if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask. I look forward to hearing from you.