Safe Browsing Tips & Things to Avoid
What’s safe to click on and what isn’t? Browsing the web requires wariness. Some customers feel like they can’t go anywhere or click on anything, and to a point, that’s true. You can’t safely click on just anything. It takes caution and common sense to make sure the links you visit are not riddled with malware. While it’s good to have one (and only one) antivirus program running on your computer, none can protect you 100%. In addition to running scans with your antivirus, you need to use safe browsing practices.
Safe Browsing: Things To Avoid
• Advertisements that appear in sidebars of other sites, particularly if they are labeled as “sponsored ads” or “paid content”.
• Any type of product that has something to do with “speeding up your PC.” There are a few reputable cleaning products and antimalware tools, but the majority of “speed up”, “clean up”, and “update” tools downloaded from the Internet are useless at best and malicious at worst.
• Adult content sites. They are virus lairs. To help filter out explicit and violent content in search results, select the “safe search” option in Google or other search engines.
• Unverified gaming, streaming, and download sites, especially if they are advertised as free. Only download from verified, legitimate companies, such as iTunes and the Windows Store. Games, songs, and videos you download from non-standard sites are often packaged with other content, which could be viruses, malware, or useless clean-up tools.
• Notices on media in webpages that plug-ins or drivers are out-of-date. Adobe Flash and Java are two legitimate plug-ins that do often have updates. But rather than clicking on an update notice, which could be fake, it’s safest to go directly to the Adobe and Java websites for the latest downloads.
When you are using a search engine (e.g. Google, Bing, Yahoo), check the URL, or web address (e.g. www.pcninja.us), of your search results before you click one. Make sure the URL sounds like something legitimate or familiar. Google, YouTube, eBay, Amazon, and Facebook are examples of well-known and reputable companies. Something called “downloadgamesfree.com” or “get-flash-now.com” should make you suspicious. New malware domains are constantly being created, so even though search engines like Google diligently flag malicious domains, there will likely be a mix of good and poor search results.¹ Sometimes you can contract malware just by visiting a compromised page, other times your computer is infected when you download something, like a game, song, or clean-up tool.
In summary, stick to legitimate sites that you are familiar with. Check web addresses and meta descriptions, the blurb of text under the page title of a search result, to make sure the content is actually helpful. Be careful to type web address correctly, as typos can lead you to fake webpages. Avoid any content that sounds suspicious, and use extra caution when downloading files. See the screenshot below for a comparison of good and bad search results. Using these safe browsing practices will be the best defense against malware infecting your computer.
¹Read more about Google’s process for a safer browsing experience and view statistics about malicious sites at: https://www.google.com/transparencyreport/safebrowsing/