How Can I Tell If a Website Is Safe? Watch for These Important Signs


It seems we spend the bulk of our time on devices these days, and many of us depend on the internet to help us complete our jobs, communicate with family and friends, and stay up to date on the news. However, many of us quickly hop on to surf the web without properly considering our safety.

While you browse the internet, you need to be aware of unsafe websites; unsecure sites can spread malware to your device, steal your sensitive personal information, and hack your email accounts to send spam. Here are five things you should look for when visiting a website:

1. Spot the “S”

When visiting a website, check the URL. Many URLs will begin with either “http” or “https” – the latter is what you want to see. The added “s” indicates that the site is encrypted, with enhanced security provided by an SSL certificate. This protects sensitive user information entered into the site as it travels from site to server.

If the site you’re visiting doesn’t have that certificate, your information can be exposed, and may be more easily accessed by wily hackers.

For example, this URL for a site that sells CBD products includes that “s”, which indicates encryption:

As this is an ecommerce site, it’s essential that the company protects customer credit card information, and the SSL certificate (indicated by that extra “s”) provides that important first layer of protection.

2. Look for a Website Privacy Policy

The website you’re using should provide a privacy policy that clearly indicates how your data is collected, stored, used, and protected by the site in question. Virtually every website should have one, as they are required by data privacy laws passed in recent years. A privacy policy indicates that the site owner is compliant with data privacy laws and takes steps to ensure your stored information doesn’t end up in the wrong hands.

The Outbrain website has a clear policy, as evidenced here:

3. Search for Contact Information

While the absence of contact information doesn’t necessarily indicate that a site is not secure, most internet users report that sites that list a phone number or email address seem more trustworthy. Typically, a safe website will make it easy to navigate to their contact information, and provide a phone number, email address, and physical address if they have one. In addition to this location information, a secure website generally lists social media accounts and return policies (if applicable). While these measures don’t necessarily provide added security, they do provide peace of mind that there’s someone who can provide assistance should something go wrong.

4. Check for a Trust Seal

You should also poke around the website you’re visiting and see if you can spot an icon that says either “Verified” or “Secure”. This is what’s known as a trust seal, which indicates that the website works with a security partner. These seals are designed to tell visitors that they site has HTTPS security and other features, including malwares scans.

Be wary of fake trust seals; verify the badge is legitimate by clicking it. If you’re taken to a verification page, then the site you’re visiting is working with a verified security firm.

Final Notes

We spend a great deal of time on the internet, so make sure you’re doing your due diligence to protect your personal information when browsing and shopping online. Keep the above markers in mind when surfing the web and only visit sites that offer these signals of security.

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