It used to be that we would get funny and interesting links shared with us through numerous emails. Now, more often than not, we get those same links shared on Facebook. No matter how you get these links, though, if you’ve been burned by opening up a bad site before, it makes you somewhat leery to end up in that position again. No one wants to get phished or run into malware and get personal information stolen.
It leaves you in a quandary; should you just go ahead and open the link your friend posted and hope for the best, or should you not even try out of fear of being phished or worse? There are actually a few different ways to tell if a website is safe, for both desktop and mobile devices.
The desktop version of Google Chrome has this all taken care of. If you enable Safe Browsing, it will do the work for you. As you browse, it will identity any site that contains phishing or malware and is looking to steal your information. It also utilizes an an extra layer of protection with sandboxing to be sure you’re not downloading something that will steal your information.
The Firefox browser has a collection of security features as well. Websites track both you and all your information. Firefox lets you choose when to allow sites to follow you and when not to. It also allows you to, as many browsers do, set up private browsing so that other users of your computer won’t know exactly what you’re doing online. Additionally, you can ask it to remove just a single site from your history for those times you visit a site then change your mind and don’t want to be associated with it.
Internet Explorer acts intuitively with a new feature entitled Application Reputation. It helps you make better decisions with downloadable content. It uses a website’s reputation with prior downloads to only show you warnings with possible dangerous downloads. The browser also gives you an option to decide which sites you allow ActiveX Controls on, which could potentially leave you vulnerable. Like the others, it also helps protect you against phishing and malware and allows you to block third-party tracking.
Apple’s Safari has many of the same safety features as the other browsers. It, too, utilizesa sandboxing, and also identifies sites with phishing or malware and identifies them for you. You don’t even have to worry about third-party cookies being placed to track you, as Safari blocks them just by default, and it allows you to see which sites are following you so that you can turn them off if you wish. It reminds you every time you download third-party software that it was found on the web, just to be sure before you download it.
On the mobile Safari, the options are much the same. In the Settings menu, you can choose to keep your browsing private and which cookies to accept. Additionally, you can choose to have it show you fraud warnings. This will warn you when you are about to enter a site that Safari suspects could be a phishing site.
The Android mobile system doesn’t have any protection built in, but handles its protection via third-party apps instead. One such app is Lookout. It comes with a fee, $3 a month or $30 a year, but it does that job you need it to. With a logo in your notifications bar to show you that it’s working, it will then alert you and automatically block access to malicious sites. It even works within the Facebook app to do the same thing.
Even though you have these prior options enabled, what if you just want to be sure that one site you are about to migrate to is safe, whether you got it in an email or saw a post on Facebook? There are a number of websites that will check these sites for you, including Google. If you add “http://google.com/safebrowsing/diagnostic?site=” in your browser, and insert the website (such as maketecheasier.com) after the equal sign, it will give you an informed report. In the past ninety days, MTE hasn’t been involved in anything like that. I feel safe visiting MTE after reading this, but to tell you the truth, I already did. There are other websites that will do the same, such as hpHosts, Norton Safe Web, and Unmasked Parasites. All do the same job, with varying degrees of information, The Google site, though, seemed to give me just the right amount of information for my needs. It was enough, but not too much.
The best way to keep your web-browsing safe might be to use a combination of these methods. You can run a browser or operating system that keeps a watchful eye on your browsing, then use one of the individual websites when you just want that extra protection, to just be sure.