5 questions you need to ask yourself before choosing to interact with a website

There are millions of websites on the world wide web, the scope of the aim and size of these websites is virtually endless with websites acting as retail outlets through to large online knowledgebases and gaming platforms. Due to such a wide variation of websites and with it, the potential to interact with such a large number of people from around the world, security is paramount when surfing the internet. Many security measures are common sense, little things such as not displaying or giving out personal information through to plain and simple intuition – if something feels wrong then 9 times out of 10 it probably is!

Here are 5 quick questions you can ask yourself when visiting a website for the first time: – 

1) Inspect the wording and layout of the website (and does it contain HTTPS in the URL bar?): – A genuine website will make every effort to present the information it holds in a clear and concise way. The website may not be perfect in terms of spelling and punctuation (I am yet to meet someone who is) but it will be evident that the author has gone to every effort to ensure that his or her website is well laid out and is a pleasure to visit. Also, it’s worth checking the authenticity of your connection to the website by looking at the left extremity of the URL bar – does ‘https://’ come before the website address? This shows that the connection to the website shown in the URL bar is encrypted offering a guarantee in terms of security.

2) Has the website got any reviews attached to it? Further to this, it’s worth consulting reviews from a website such as Trustpilot, this ensures the review is genuine and not written by the author of the website!  Even if the website has 4 or 5 reviews attached to it, again it’s worth looking at how the reviews are written (sometimes a self-written review will show a very clear bias towards the site in question – almost too obvious!). If the pattern of language use is very similar across a few reviews it may be that the reviews were written by the same author who may have an alliance to the website or an author who may have had a bad experience with the website and is writing defamatory articles due to grievances!

3) Where did you learn about the website? Did you discover the website through a respected search engine (Google, Bing…?) or did you receive a link from a stranger in a Facebook group?  This is a silly example but shows that if you found out about the website through a suspicious link it’s likely that the website you are guided to can’t be trusted and the author or person who linked you to the website probably has some vested interest in sending you to the site. Just to mention…….if you are in a Facebook group and a member of the group posts a link to a website that is relevant to the topic of the conversation going on in the group (design, web content etc) then it’s more likely that the website is legit. 

4) Does the website have a privacy policy attached to it? Is it assigned to the website you are viewing? This one is pretty self-explanatory! A privacy policy sets out the rules of how a website may handle your data, if there is no privacy policy then there is no control over the protection of your data or protection over how your data is used by a website. If there is a privacy policy attached to the website and you have a feeling that the website is suspicious, its worth drilling down into the policy and looking at its content and how it is written. It’s fairly easy to spot a deceptive policy as you can compare the policy to a legit policy online and notice differences in the layout and the tone of the wording that is used. Another thing to note when looking at a privacy policy is to look down at the footer of the page – a policy that was acquired for free online will usually have ‘generated by…….’ somewhere in the footer of the page. As these are free it means anyone can lift these and pass them off on their own website – again it’s just a question of looking at the website and deciding whether you think it is genuine.

5) Intuition – does the website ‘feel’ right? Finally always trust your gut……if something doesn’t feel or seem right to you its best just to avoid it and move on! There are plenty of websites out there and there’ll certainly be another site that can cater to your needs.

If you question any of the points above it’s probably a good shout to try and contact the author of the website to find out more information, if it’s a genuine website the author should be more than happy to chat and discuss any concerns. If the website is suspect……well you probably can expect to receive a vague reply to any queries you may have – or no reply at all. In these cases, it’s advisable to make contact with the author via a neutral email address or contact point thus avoiding giving away your personal contact details. 

To finish…..the majority of websites you will visit will be exactly as they advertise and you won’t encounter any problems. Like anything, it’s always a good idea to approach some aspects of the web with caution, especially in areas where you are required to give away personal or financial details. The above list is by no means definitive and merely points out a few observations made by the author over his many years browsing 😉

Please feel free to get in touch if you have any questions (open a ticket) with our hosting department – we will try to get back to you as soon as we can!

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