7 Signs of A Secure Website: How to Ensure That You’re Browsing Safe
We live in a world that operates online. A lot of things can be done over internet today, thanks to the large number of websites that are available to make them happen.
However, this online world has also introduced us to new types of frauds that are more sophisticated in nature. That doesn’t mean we should stop using internet altogether. What we should do is taking precaution – there are many steps that we can take to ensure that we’re browsing safe websites.
Below are some common signs of a secure website and we’re going to look at them carefully. Let’s get started:
Common Signs of A Secure Website
1. Presence of HTTPS
Presence of HTTPS (Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure) is one of the first and easily recognizable sings that certify the security of a site. By default, all websites load over HTTP protocol, but installation of an SSL Certificate on the web server makes them load over more secure HTTPS protocol. The websites that load over HTTPS securely encrypt all user data before sending it to the web server. This eliminates the possibility of someone else capturing the data packets in transit and uncovering the information being sent by you to a site.
Websites loading over HTTP, however, don’t provide this security to you. Your data being sent to a HTTP-based website can be stolen even before it reaches the server. Clearly, you would want to deal with the sites of first category. And fortunately, it’s very easy to recognize the sites of first category. A green padlock is shown before the URL of all those websites, like the one that you can see from the image above. Some SSL certificates also show the name of organization, which signifies even more security. But if no padlock is visible before the address of a website, it’s certainly not a safe site.
2. Secure Payment Seals
If you’re on a site which asks you for your financial information, it’s also important that the site has appropriate seals showing the standards it has complied with. Secure payment seals are like a company seal that is affixed on a document after signing it, the only difference being that these seals are found on the websites instead of documents. They’re issued by various security standard compliance groups only after a company has put proper security procedures and tools in place to secure their site. Examples include Payment Cards Industry Data Security Standards (PCI-DSS) compliance seal, Verified by Visa seal, MasterCard Secure Code seal and many others. If any of these seals is visible on a site, it’s a sign of a secure site.
3. Clearly Defined Policies
In addition to that, if you’re on an online shopping site, it should also have a clearly defined and easily accessible Return Policy in place. And remember, clearly defined is the keyword here. A vague policy is as good as no policy.
4. Valid Contact Information
Any business that is genuine will also have valid contact information written on its website. It will either be in the footer of the site, or on a separate Contact page. There should be a physical address in it, along with the option of speaking to a real human being (either via phone or via live chat). If you’re going to provide any sensitive data to a site (i.e. credit card information, or any other sensitive data) then you should also verify the validity of contact information posted there by speaking to someone who runs the site.
5. Acceptable Level of Advertising
Advertising has become the default revenue generation model of most websites, so it’s not surprising that most websites can be found having ads on them. However, presence of too many ads, or ads that are too overpowering that you can’t ignore them (i.e. pop-up ads, download related ads, large banners, interactive ads, redirecting ads, click-enabled ads, etc.) are the tell-tale signs of an insecure website.
6. No Warning by Your Browser or Antivirus
Companies like Google, Microsoft and Mozilla Foundation have done a lot of work to build smart features in their web browsers and antivirus programs. These features can warn people about unsafe websites well in advance. You can rely on the capabilities of these programs too for ensuring that a website is safe. If a site is safe, your web browser or antivirus won’t give you any warnings when you visit it. On the other hand, if there’s something unsafe about a site, various types of warnings may be issued depending on the severity of issues. For instance, if a website is not loading over HTTPS, a ‘Not Secure’ label is shown in Chrome and warning messages are shown in the form input fields of Mozilla Firefox. If a website has even more severe security issues (i.e. viruses, phishing etc.), the browsers go a step ahead and warn you even before the site is loaded, with a big warning message that looks something like this:
You should not ignore these warnings, as they’re a guarantee that the website you’re browsing is insecure. Ignoring the warning and loading the site anyway can cause serious damage not only to your privacy but also to your computer in some cases.
7. Original Domain Name
Finally, you should also double check the domain name of a site to ensure that you’re browsing a safe site. Sometimes what hackers do is acquiring a domain that looks very similar to any popular domain, and then putting online a fake copy of the site on that domain for stealing user information. For instance, if they want to steal the information of Amazon users, they may acquire anazon.com too and put a fake copy of Amazon website online on that domain. If you submit any information on this fake site, instead of going to Amazon servers it will go to the server of hackers. This type of attacks is called phishing attacks, and they’re mostly carried out through email/SMS campaigns. So, if you opened a link through email/SMS, double check the domain of site in address bar.
So, these were the 7 steps you can take to ensure that the sites you’re visiting are safe and secure. Since most of the cyber attacks happen because of users browsing insecure websites, it’s important that you follow these steps for ensuring the security of your digital life. Just include these steps in your internet browsing habits, and you’ll greatly reduce your chances of being targeted by a malicious site. All the best!