How To Check if a Website Is Secure
It’s no secret that many websites you come across aren’t secure. But how do you know whether or not you can trust a website you visit — or if your website is giving off untrustworthy signals?
In this article, we’ll go over how to check if a website is secure, and we’ll also explain why website security is so important.
7 Ways To Check if a Website Is Secure
From quickly eyeing the URL to paying closer attention to website design, here are 7 ways to perform a secure website check.
The URL can let you know whether or not the website is secure. A safe website will have HTTPS at the start of the URL as opposed to HTTP. That “S” literally stands for “secure” — it’s a sign that the site uses a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate.
Sometimes, you can’t see whether or not a URL starts with HTTPS, though. There’s another way to look for website security: If there’s a padlock before the URL, that means it’s safe. Clicking on it will also assure you that the connection is secure.
An SSL certificate is a data file on a web server that creates a secure connection between the server and a browser. In other words, any data that passes from the browser to the server is safe. So, for example, if you enter your credit card information, it can’t be intercepted or modified. Without SSL, your personal information could be hacked without anyone noticing.
Aside from looking for an HTTPS or padlock before the website’s URL, you should inspect it for other issues, such as:
- Grammatical errors
- Missing letters
- A zero instead of an “O”
- Other typos
Using a URL that’s similar to a legit URL but not exactly the same is a common scam that hackers use. The assumption is that most people won’t realize they’re on the wrong website because the URL is only slightly off.
When the website is purposely designed to look like the original website it mimics, the user may log in, enter their personal information and make a purchase without ever noticing the problem. The cybercriminal would then have your credentials to use as they wish.
Theme and Design
Everything that goes into building a website is created with code, and that includes your website plugins and theme. Some code can be vulnerable, either because it’s outdated or because it was designed to be unsafe.
For example, a pirated theme — an unauthorized reproduction of a theme — can have ways for hackers to get in.
To pick a safe website theme, make sure it’s regularly updated and that it’s compatible with your version of WordPress. It should also play well with your other site elements, like plugins. This article from Themeisle has more tips for picking a safe WordPress theme.
There are certain times of spammy elements or practices that signal a site may not be trustworthy:
- Lots of blinking banners
- Lower-than-average product prices
- Too-good-to-be-true promises
Also, these websites tend to look out of date. If you’ve never heard of or visited the site before and something seems off, it’s best to get off of it.
A lot of companies will showcase how trustworthy they are by placing security seals on their website. However, it’s easy to create security seals with design programs, so it’s not a guarantee that the website is actually safe. It could also be a ploy by a dangerous site to get visitors to trust it.
An authentic seal should be clickable and direct you to the website of the company that issues it. For example, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) allows companies to apply for accreditation. If a website has a BBB seal, it should redirect users to its company listing on the BBB website.
A fake stamp, on the other hand, may not have any distinct information on it, like where the seal is from, and it may not redirect at all, or it could send you to a reputable website.
If you have any concerns about how the website collects, uses and protects your data, you should be able to find details here.
If you want to buy from a website that you’ve never been on before, Googling [website name] + reviews can help.
Look for positive and negative customer experiences, and pay attention to repetitive feedback.
If one person had a bad experience with a website, that’s not necessarily a sign that you shouldn’t shop there. But if multiple people say that they never got the products they ordered or that something seemed shady, that’s a good sign to avoid the site.
If you’re a website owner, regularly monitor mentions of your brand. That way, if you get bad feedback related to website security, you can get on top of it before it impacts sales or ranking.
Google Safe Browsing protects users as well as website owners from dangerous websites. Here’s how:
- If a user tries to navigate to a dangerous website, they’re shown a warning message.
- If a website is compromised, the webmaster is alerted.
Google also has a diagnostic tool that lets you check a website’s security status.
Other cybersecurity tools include antivirus software, a VPN for an encrypted internet connection and WordPress security plugins to keep your data safe.
Why Is Website Security Important?
Website security is important for all types of websites, including those that take your personal information (like online stores) and those that don’t.
Search engines look at website security when ranking pages, so if you don’t have a secure website, it’ll be difficult to rank highly.
On top of that, secure websites build trust with your audience. They’ll be more likely to consider you a go-to source of information or buy from your shop if they feel safe.
Internet users as well as website owners are responsible for safe browsing. Users need to know the signs of an unsafe website so they can keep their private information safe. And website owners should take necessary and up-to-date steps to instill confidence in both human visitors and search engines.
Having a secure website is just one step toward optimization. Check out this beginner’s guide to SEO basics, too.