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How to avoid clicking on a malicious website

Clicking on a fake website and finding yourself compromised by malware is one of the most common and well-known cyber security scams on the internet. 

Unfortunately, the more that society relies upon the internet (and search engines in particular), the less vigilant people are about checking details like web URLs, the details of a potential phishing email, or whether the types of website they visit are likely to have scams lurking on there or not.

Despite this, it isn’t especially difficult to stay safe from malicious websites, as long as you know what you are looking for, follow a few simple safety steps and stay vigilant at all times.

Here is how to avoid clicking on a malicious website:

Have a clear idea of what the threats are

You can’t avoid cyber scams if you don’t know what the scams are. While malicious websites are being focused on here, they are often part of a wider scam involving a number of different cyber scam techniques and tools. 

For example, while you might think that you aren’t likely to click on a malicious website because the websites you usually search for are above board and trustworthy, the truth is rather different. Cyber hackers can get you to click on a malicious site, whether you like it or not, through a process called pharming. 

Pharming is when a scammer manages to hack your device and redirect you to a malicious site while you are on a web browser. The aim – like phishing scams – is to get you to enter personal details (especially your bank details). So, if you search for a certain website with the intention of either buying something or (in the case of your bank, for example) logging in and checking your account, you could be redirected to a fake version of the same website. 

When you log in like normal, the hacker will have your bank details, and there will be little you can do other than notify your bank.

You can learn more about pharming by visiting Proofpoint.

Make sure to double-check the URL before clicking any links

A key way to avoid clicking on a malicious website (or, in the event of a pharming hack, entering your details on one) is to check the URL closely. You want to make sure that there is ‘HTTPS’ at the beginning and a padlock icon. This signifies that the connection is secure, and you shouldn’t face any problems.

Use private networks (or at least use a VPN)

To make your web experience more secure, it could be worth investing in a VPN. 

A VPN scrambles your IP address, making it impossible for anyone to track your device’s location online. In addition, it essentially connects you to a private network, which protects you, especially if you use a public network. 

Similarly, consider using a browser that blocks advertisements and makes it easy to remain completely private online, such as Brave Browser. This will add an extra barrier between you and any cyber scams.

Don’t visit sites you know to be suspect

It might sound obvious, but a great way to reduce your chances of visiting a malicious site or falling foul of a cyber scam is to avoid websites that are likely to suffer from regular cyber threats, such as piracy websites. 

This tip will come down to personal judgment. Just as you wouldn’t hand over your money to someone you don’t trust, or enter a shop that looks run-down, avoid websites that make you second guess yourself or doubt the integrity of the company.

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