Online security is important, yet it can be tough to tell whether a website we want to visit is credible just by looking at it.
With the rise of online shopping and high-speed internet available right from our phones, it is especially important to protect your personal information, especially when making purchases on the go from your phone’s web browser.
Follow this checklist to make sure the websites you visit are secure before entering your information or making that purchase.
1. The Green Lock Symbol
The fastest way to check whether the website you’re on is secure and trustworthy is to look for the green lock symbol. Most web browsers have this feature, although it looks a little different on mobile.
On Google Chrome, the symbol will be visible at the top left, in the left corner of the address bar, much the same as it appears on the computer version of Chrome.
A green lock symbol means the site is secure, while a grey circle with the letter “i” means the site is not secure – although not necessarily dangerous. You can tap the icon for more information. If you see a red triangle with an exclamation mark, flee the site.
The symbol on Safari will also be in the address bar, to the left of the site name or URL, but this browser works differently from Chrome.
A green lock means the site is secure and uses special encryption (called an EV certificate). A grey lock also means the site is secure, but only uses a “standard” certificate, which could make it less trustworthy. A “no lock” icon means the site has no encryption, which could be a bad sign.
2. HTTPS Versus HTTP
At the start of every website URL will likely be a string of letters and symbols – either “http://” or “https://” – and this can quickly tell you a lot about the sites you visit.
The second one, with an “s,” means the site has “SSL” encryption, an important security feature. Generally any website with this feature will also show the green lock symbol in your web browser, but it is good to double-check.
3. Use a Link Scanner
If you are visiting a new site or are unsure whether to click on a link, a link scanner can help you know what to do.
You can copy a link and paste it into a link scanner like URLVoid, which will give you information about the site without actually opening it. You can also try link scanner plug-ins for browsers like Chrome, which can scan links without opening a new tab.
4. Check Shortened Links
Most link scanners can’t properly check out a link that has been shortened by something like Bit.ly or Ow.ly, which often replace regular links on social media.
You can use Sucuri to expand those links and check out the website for you. Just copy and paste the link and it will tell you all about the target link and the site’s security.
5. Don’t Share All Information
Online shopping sites may request lots of personal information, but there are some things they should never ask you.
If a site requests your social security number, birthday or other personal details that don’t relate to shipping and billing, take these as a big red flag and shop elsewhere.