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What Makes a Website Safe?

With the gift-giving season upon us, more people will be doing their holiday shopping online. Shoppers are projected to spend billions of dollars during the online shopping rush in the last weeks of November. With all of this online holiday shopping, plenty of personal information — home addresses, email addresses, phone numbers, and financial information — will be entered into numerous websites across the internet. This personal data translates to big dollars for cybercriminals who are prepared for the heavy traffic and increased online sales.

How Can You Protect Your Data?

Online transactions are at risk of data theft if a website is not secure. Online shoppers are also vulnerable to scams like fraudulent websites, spam and phishing emails, social engineering attacks, and others.

Once you share your personal information with an online retailer, it is the responsibility of the retailer to protect the data that you have shared with them, so it’s important that you are careful with who you trust with your information online. With so many active websites, how do you know who can be trusted? How do you know if a website is legitimate and can be trusted with your data?

How Do You Know If A Website Is Safe?

Before sharing your information with a website, you must make sure the website is secure. A secure website will encrypt your data in transit so that malicious actors cannot see your data and steal sensitive information as your data moves from your device to the company’s server. However, it is important to note that just because a website is secure does not mean the website is safe.

A safe website is not only secure, but it is also reasonably verified as the correct website and not a fraudulent website. Not only should you check the website for site encryption, but you should also check for trust indicators that the website is not an imposter website. We will share some tips that you can use to tell if a website is safe and secure. We will also share ways to tell if the company is legitimate. Knowing if a company is real and if a website is safe will help you know if it is safe to share your information.

Tip 1: Check the TSL/SSL Certificate

Check the URL of the website. If the website begins with “HTTPS” instead of “HTTP”, this means the website is secure with a TSL/SSL certificate. The “S” in the abbreviation comes from the word secure. The TSL/SSL certificate is used to secure any data that is passed from the browser to the website’s server. Take a look at the address bar of your browser right now, you will notice a small padlock before the address of our website.

When you click on it, you will see a message stating that “Connection is secure”, depending on the browser you are using. So, you see the padlock, but what does it mean? This means that the owner of the website you are viewing guarantees that the communication between you and the business responsible for the website cannot be obstructed or altered.

Imagine that you are doing some online holiday shopping on a website and you share personal data with the company. Without certification, the information you share could be copied without your knowledge and without the online retailer being aware of what is taking place. This is why it is so important to check if a website is safe and to verify that it has TSL/SSL certification. That certification is used by Google when ranking websites in its list of search results.

Tip 2: Check the Website’s Domain

Cybercriminals are known to create websites that impersonate existing websites and try to deceive people into purchasing something or logging into a phishing site. Most of the time, these fraudulent sites look exactly like the site they are impersonating.

An example: a cybercriminal purchases a domain and sets up a website at that location that looks exactly like a well-known website. The cybercriminal buys a Domain Validated SSL certificate for their website and tries to deceive users through the use of phishing emails or another method to make a purchase or log in using their credentials to log into an account on the phishing site.

Cybercriminals are aware that many users do not pay attention to some details, and cybercriminals benefit from this behavior when concocting new scams. A missing letter or number, typos, significant grammatical errors, etc. are all signs that a website is not secure, and that it is likely a scam attempt. In many cases, imposter website addresses replace characters.

For example, you may notice a web address has a zero(0) where there should be an “o”. Many online users will be in such a hurry that they will not recognize they are actually on g0ogle.com instead of the legitimate website.

To avoid falling victim to one of these scams or attacks, always pay attention to the website’s domain of the website you are on. If you receive an email from your bank or an email from an online retailer or vendor that seems suspicious, never click the link in the email. The best thing for you to do is to type the domain into your browser to make sure it directs to the website you should be on.

Tip 3: Check for a Privacy Policy

A privacy policy on a website should clearly communicate how your data will be collected, used, and protected by the website. A privacy policy indicates that the owner of the website cares about complying with data privacy laws and ensuring that their website is safe. Be sure to look for one on the website and read it before sharing your personal and sensitive information.

Unfortunately, not every website is trustworthy and secure, but we don’t want that to prevent you from going online. However, we do want you to do it safely! Shopping online is convenient and can make your holiday gift shopping quick and easy. However, falling victim to an online scam or data theft can quickly ruin your holiday spirit. Being able to recognize a safe website can go a long way to helping protect your personal data. For more on protecting your information online, reach out to Colorado Computer Support today.

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