SSST #41 – Avoid Unfamiliar Websites

As you know, roaming the internet can be a risky proposition.

There are, for instance, trap websites awaiting your arrival so they can infect your computer with viruses, malware, ransomware, scripts, and other bad stuff.

That’s why you need to avoid unfamiliar websites and visit only those that are trustworthy.

How do you determine the trustworthiness of a site you’ve never before visited?

Easy. First, hover your mouse over the link you’re planning to click to take you to that site. The site’s full URL—its internet address—will then become visible.

Check to see if the URL begins with the letters HTTPS.

That’s computer shorthand for Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure. It means the site’s owner has obtained a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate, which gives assurance that the data you exchange with the website will be encrypted.

If you don’t see HTTPS at the beginning of the URL, what might show up instead is HTTP (no “S” at the end). That means the site is unsecured, and the data you exchange will not be encrypted.

Suppose you go straight to a site (without first doing the mouse hover), and the URL in your browser’s address bar is missing the HTTPS or even the HTTP prefix. You’ll still be able to tell if the site has SSL certification. Just look for a little padlock icon in front of the URL. If you see it, you’re golden.

SSST #41 – Avoid Unfamiliar Websites

Be mindful that neither HTTPS nor the padlock icon guarantees the site is legit. It could still be a trap. However, such risk is fairly low because cybercriminals typically hate getting SSL certification—the process requires too much effort and public exposure for their liking.

So stay away from unfamiliar sites. But if visit them, you must then at least verify they can encrypt the data you exchange.

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