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Cybersafe October 20, 2019

How-to: Identify Unsafe Websites

The Internet is a vast space where it’s so easy to get information – including copies of books, films, and other files for free.


However, lurking right under all this content are malicious or unsafe websites that can endanger your devices with viruses, or even get ahold of your data. This is why it is important to learn how to identify unsafe websites and distinguish them from safe ones.


One sign that you can use to check if a website is safe is if its URL uses “https” rather than simply “http”. The ‘s’ in https:// means that the website is encrypted, so the sensitive information on that site is protected as it gets transferred from server to server. This is usually accompanied by a small padlock icon on the URL bar.


There are also “trust seals” on websites, which means that the website works with a security partner. These security partners verifies the safety features of the site, such as its private connection or its last malware scan. Keep your eye out for small badges on the website – like McAfee Secure – to see information pertaining to the site’s security.


To detect malware (or malicious software), on the other hand, check the context. Reputable brands and their websites would rarely have downloadable files with malware attached.


However, questionable websites (usually pornography or cracked game websites) would have more than their fair share of malware. For additional reassurance, check the comment section of the files to see if other users affirm its safety or not.


The general rule is to avoid clicking suspicious pop-ups, ads, or links from sources you don’t trust – these are disguised malware links that download immediately on your computer. Pop-ups that say you’ve won something should not be trusted as well, since these were designed to trick people into clicking them.


If a site has been defaced by a hacker (usually marked using their name, logo, or ideological symbol), don’t download anything from there as well, since they might have infected the files you intend to download.


Lastly, search engines usually warn you if it detects a potentially malicious site. The system will display a big red X or a warning sign, which serves as a red-flag that the site might not be safe. It will also ask you if you wish to proceed, and to do so with caution if you must.


The Internet has its many good uses, but it’s always good to remember that the Internet can be weaponized against us as well, so surf with caution.


This article is part of the Banker’s Association of the Philippines’ (BAP) #CyberSafe campaign, where the BAP aims to promote awareness towards cybersecurity. As part of the campaign, new posts will be uploaded every Wednesday and Sunday, tackling common web security questions and issues.


For more information about cybersecurity threats,  please visit these links: Phishing 101 and Malware 101