Ensuring the safety of the websites we visit is crucial if we want to protect our information. With cyber threats on the rise, it’s crucial to adopt a proactive approach to protect ourselves from potential risks. 

There were 114 publicly disclosed security incidents in October 2023, bringing the year’s total to over 5 billion so far. Whether you’re shopping online, conducting research, or simply browsing for entertainment, verifying the safety of a website should be a routine practice. In this article, we’ll explore a comprehensive guide on how to check if a website is safe to use.

Dig into the Code

For the more technically inclined, inspecting a website’s source code can reveal hidden gems—or red flags. Right-click on the webpage, select “View Page Source,” and explore the HTML. Look for anomalies, unfamiliar scripts, or excessive redirects that might indicate a compromised website.

Explore the WHOIS Database

Go beyond traditional domain lookup tools and delve into the WHOIS database. This resource provides detailed information about a website’s domain registration, including the owner’s contact details. While privacy protection services may obscure some information, WHOIS can still offer valuable insights into a website’s authenticity.

Assess the Website’s Social Media Presence

Legitimate businesses often maintain active social media profiles. Check if the website has associated social media accounts and examine their activity. A thriving and engaged online presence can be a positive indicator of legitimacy.

Verify Security Headers

Security headers in a website’s HTTP response can provide insights into its security posture. Tools like Mozilla Observatory can analyse a website’s headers and give you a score based on best practices. Look for headers like Content Security Policy (CSP) and Strict Transport Security (HSTS).

Scrutinise the URL Structure

Beyond checking for HTTPS, analyse the structure of the URL itself. Phishing websites may employ deceptive tactics, such as replacing letters with similar-looking characters. Pay attention to subtle variations that might escape casual observation.

Check for Browser Console Errors

Navigate to your browser’s developer tools (usually accessible by pressing F12) and open the console tab. Load the website and inspect for errors or warnings in the console. Multiple errors could indicate a poorly maintained or compromised site.

Investigate the Website’s Hosting Provider

Look up the website’s hosting provider using tools like WHOIS or specialised hosting provider lookup services. Some hosting providers have a reputation for hosting malicious content, and this information can add an extra layer to your safety assessment.

Use the Wayback Machine

The Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine allows you to view archived versions of a website over time. Check how long the website has been in existence and whether its content has undergone drastic changes. A sudden transformation could signal malicious intent.

Analyse SSL/TLS Certificates

Inspect the SSL/TLS certificates used by the website. Tools like SSL Labs can provide detailed analyses of a website’s certificate, including its strength and any potential vulnerabilities. Outdated or weak certificates may indicate a lack of commitment to security.

Look for Spelling and Grammar Consistency

Pay attention to the quality of written content on the website. Legitimate sites generally maintain a consistent and professional standard. Frequent spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, or awkward language can be indicative of a hastily created or untrustworthy site.

In conclusion, the evolving landscape of online threats requires a multifaceted approach to website safety. By incorporating these niche and unconventional tips into your toolkit, you can elevate your ability to discern between trustworthy and potentially harmful websites. The digital world is dynamic, and staying one step ahead involves a blend of technological acumen, critical thinking, and a dash of curiosity.

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