Smartphones have never been so popular for browsing the web. Whether you want to access social media or shop online, the personal computer is no longer the default choice.
Cybercriminals are well aware of this trend. Malicious websites are now designed for smartphone users.
So how do you know if a website is secure when using a smartphone? And what are the consequences if you don’t?
What Happens on Unsecured Websites?
Some people take a more relaxed approach to internet security when using a mobile device. This is partly because it is more difficult to catch a virus.
Unfortunately, this is a mistake that cybercriminals are happy to take advantage of. Using a malicious website can be costly no matter what device you use to access it. Here are some potential threats.
You may fall for a scam
If you buy something from a scam website, the owner obviously won’t care what device you are using. Fake online stores are easier than ever to set up. And most of them were designed to target smartphone users.
Your password may be stolen
Phishing websites are designed to appear like legitimate websites, but when you enter your password, you are actually talking to a criminal. It can cause anything from hacking a social media account to emptying your bank account.
These websites are even more effective on smartphones because the small screen allows you to hide imperfections.
Your identity can be stolen
Some websites are designed only to steal personal information. It can be as expensive as revealing a password.
The little details in your life may not always seem particularly precious. But if you provide enough of them, they can be used for identity theft.
Your phone can catch a virus
Malware is a much bigger problem on computers than it is on smartphones. But that doesn’t mean that a smartphone can’t catch viruses. Every time you visit a malicious website, therefore, you run the risk of your device starting to behave in a strange way.
How to check if a website is secure on a smartphone
Most malicious websites are easy to identify provided you know what to look for. Here are eight ways to check if a website is secure on your smartphone.
1. Look for imperfections
Some malicious websites are highly professional and you cannot determine their purpose just by looking at them. But most have imperfections. For example, you might notice misspellings or generic images.
These imperfections are easier to miss when using a smartphone. Before giving any information, it is good to scroll: take the time to familiarize yourself a little more with the site.
2. Check HTTPS
HTTPS is an Internet protocol that encrypts information as it passes from one computer to another. If a website is not equipped with HTTPS, any information you provide can potentially be stolen through a man-in-the-middle attack.
The presence of HTTPS doesn’t automatically mean you’re on a legitimate website. But if this feature is missing, then the website is probably not to be trusted.
All popular browsers display a closed padlock in the URL bar when you visit a website using HTTPS. If you see an open padlock instead, you should probably be browsing elsewhere.
3. Beware of pop-ups
Cybercriminals love to use pop-ups for all kinds of malicious purposes. They can be used to display ads that are hard to leave. Or they can trick you to visit a different URL than the one you requested.
Some pop-ups are harmless. But unless you have a reason to trust the website, pop-ups usually mean that a site should be avoided.
4. Look for authorization requests
If a website wants to access anything on your phone other than the browser, it needs to get your permission first. Legitimate websites ask for permissions all the time, so a request alone is not to be feared.
But if you’re asked to download something or provide access to potentially private information, it’s important to proceed with caution.
5. Check the URL carefully
Many malicious websites can be identified by just looking at the URL. Often phishing websites attempt to impersonate legitimate sites by using a name similar to the original.
Cybercriminals also use domain names that don’t look professional because they know their sites will eventually be flagged and deleted. If you see either of these things, the website should be avoided.
6. Use a search engine
All legitimate websites are indexed by Google. If you search for a website and can’t find anything, you are probably looking for something malicious.
Search engines are also helpful in recognizing scams. Unless you are on a very reputable site, you should always check customer reviews before submitting your payment information.
7. Check if there is a mobile version
All business websites are now optimized for use on mobile devices. Partly, that’s because Google won’t send a lot of traffic to a website if it doesn’t have this feature.
If you notice that a website is not optimized for a smaller screen, this should be treated as an important red flag.
If an online store doesn’t care about mobile users, for example, it might be because they are planning to steal them anyway.
8. Use VirusTotal
VirusTotal is a popular website that allows you to scan any URL. It will tell you if a website has been flagged as malicious in the past. It also allows you to scan a website with a wide selection of reputable antivirus engines on your own.
It is important to note that this website is designed to detect malware. It won’t necessarily alert you to scams or phishing scams.
Don’t be a victim of cybercrime on your phone
Smartphone users are just as vulnerable to unsafe websites as PC users. Some malicious websites are actually even more effective on small screens because it helps hide their imperfections.
If you use a smartphone to shop online or do online banking, it’s especially important to be on the lookout for sites with malicious intent. If you’re not, you’re doing exactly what the cybercriminals want.
Do you have an Android device? You should know about these key utilities which help to secure your device.
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