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How to Know if a Website is Safe

Mukulika Mukherjee
Shopping online is a growing fad and there are hundreds of sites that sell virtually everything under the sun! But before you enter your credit card number, happy at the thought of purchasing that expensive gadget at an unbelievable price, but how to know if a website is safe? Read on to find an answer.
The Internet has made our lives easy in more ways than one, and today we are accustomed to use the Net for everything from banking to paying our bills to shopping. For this, we are required to fill in our personal information and use our credit or debit cards for online transactions.
This is convenient as we do not even have to leave the confines of our homes and yet, we can enjoy shopping at our favorite destinations! However, this huge availability of sensitive information on the Web has given rise to crooks who are after collecting this huge database of information and using it to their benefits.
Cyber crime, as crime on the Internet is termed as, is on the rise and there are thousands of sites out there that steal your personal information once you click on their links or download stuff from their site. The threats are many and include malware, spyware, phishing, virus and more. So, how can you protect yourself and your computer from all such potential threats? Well, the only way out is dealing with websites that are safe and secure.

How to Check if a Website is Safe

Before we get into the ways to check if a website is safe, let us try and understand what is meant by a secure website. When you browse through different sites on the Internet, there is an interchange of data between your computer and the server.
The problem here is that this data is transmitted in "plain text" format and it is not difficult for anyone to access and decipher this data. Now, if you are wondering who would access this and how, then you must know that the information passes across several computers before it reaches the server.
A secure website is one that encrypts the data using the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) protocol, thus protecting it from being "read" by third parties who wish to use it for their benefits. Here are some ways to check if a website is safe to buy or order from.

Update Your Browser

The first thing that you can do in order to be able to detect threats from a website is updating your browser. No matter which browser you are using, you find updates appearing at regular intervals, urging you to install them.
It is recommended that you install each one of these updates as every browser has its own list of phishing sites and spam websites which are regularly updated for advanced Internet safety. So, an updated browser can alert you against such websites.

Check the URL

Checking the URL of the Web page is simple and perhaps one of the best ways to detect if the site is secure or not. Just have a look at the URL and you'll find that in case of Web pages that are secure, the URL begins with "https" instead of "http" as found on ordinary Web pages. For example, have a look at the URL of the 'login' page of Facebook and you'll find that it begins with "https".

Look for the Lock Icon

When you open a Web page that is secure, you'll find an icon of a lock somewhere on the browser window.
In Microsoft Internet Explorer, you should see the icon on the right of the address bar (or location bar) of a secure web page, while in Mozilla Firefox browser, you'll find it in the bottom right corner of the page i.e., on the right side of the 'Status Bar' located at the bottom of the page.
If you're using the Google Chrome browser, you should look for the lock icon before the url in the address bar.

Check the Security Certificate

The presence of a lock icon does indicate a secure site but to be doubly sure, click (or double-click) on the icon of the lock. You'll find that it is a link and clicking on it opens a new window that describes the security of the site in detail.
This is nothing but the 'security certificate' we are talking about. The security certificate is the ultimate indicator of a site's safety, and in it you'll find details such as to whom the certificate is issued, by whom, the validity of the certificate, etc.

Use Online Tools

This is another way to check if a website is safe. There are certain websites on the Net that offer to check sites for security. All you need to do is go to one of these sites and enter the URL of the site you wish to check.
Some sites like Web of Trust (WOT) even offer add-ons that you can download for free and install in your browser. The names of few of such sites are given here.
  • Google Safe Browsing
  • Web of Trust (WOT)
  • Norton Safe Web
  • HpHosts Online
  • SiteAdvisor
  • Blacklist Doctor

Look Out for Personal Contact Details

This is especially applicable to little known shopping sites with whom you have never done business before. In such cases, to find out if the business is real, look for a physical address or contact number. And if you chance to find a phone number, call the number to find if it is valid. Also, do some research about the particular company on the Net.
Thus, we see that there are several ways to know if a website is secure or not. So, before every transaction that you make on a website, check if it is indeed safe to do so. Hope you have a pleasant experience shopping online!