Thankfully, browsers have made it increasingly easy!

Now, in and beside the URL, you can view two things:

  1. Check if the URL has HTTPS or HTTP. If it has HTTP, don't go to the site. The S stands for secure, and means Secure Sockets Layer. URLs with HTTPS ensure data is encrypted before it's sent to the server.
  2. Check to the left or right of the URL to see if the browser has a lock icon, or says Not Secure. To learn more, click on the icon/message. For example, if it's Not Secure, it may say something like, "You should not enter any sensitive information on this site (for example, passwords or credit cards), because it could be stolen by attackers."

Some browsers will even have a pop-up message that warns of the insecure website.

Outside of that, always doublecheck the URL itself. Cybersquatting is a hacking tactic that involves a registering a domain name that closely resembles a well-established, trusted website in an attempt to gain access to users’ information.

A common form of this trend is referred to as typosquatting, where hackers register a domain name that is only 1-2 letters off from the real domain name. For example, they might register www.faceboook.com, where the extra letter is easy to miss.

Another technique is to register a domain with two letters next to each other that appear to be the one letter in the original domain name. For example, www.grnail.com (with an ‘r’ and ‘n’ rather than an ‘m’).  These fake URLs usually lead to fake copy of the website you were originally trying to reach, where hackers are free to steal your login information or infect your computer with viruses.

Additionally, if you happen upon a site infiltrated with ads or popups, your safest bet is to exit immediately. To learn more about malvertising, click here. In general, if it looks sketchy, it very well may be!

One quick and easy way to avoid entering bad sites is to bookmark the secure websites you frequently visit. Not only will this save you time, but it will also help you avoid clicking on a fake URL!

Here are some additional tips for safe browsing:

  • Keep your browser updated.
  • Block pop-ups.
  • Use an ad-blocker.
  • Enable "Do Not Track" in your browser or apps.
  • Clear your browser cache and cookies.
  • Turn on private browsing (ie, New InPrivate Window on Edge).
  • Use a browser that emphasizes privacy, such as DuckDuckGo or Brave.
  • Use a VPN.

headshot, owner, president, author, partners plus, IT company, IT services, SSD, recommendationBill Hogan is the Owner and President of Partners Plus. He has 40 years of experience in the technology industry, specifically IT support services. Bill has spoken at seminars all over the country about network management and published his latest book in 2018. Partners Plus was selected by PHL17 as the best Computer and Information Technology Support Company in the greater Philadelphia area in 2018.