How to identify malicious websites

Thousands of users get ripped off over the internet by dubious websites. Their private photos, identity and bank details can be stolen, their Emails read…

In practice, it is often not difficult to identify dubious websites. This applies at least to the offers that are created quickly and are only aimed at profit, competitions or data collection. However, there are sites that, even after thorough examination, make a trustworthy impression and yet pursue dishonest intentions.

In this article we will outline some criteria that can help identify an unsafe website.

If several of the following warning signs apply to a website, you should exercise extreme caution, avoid entering sensitive data and look for alternatives.

Image credit: Komando

Warning signs

Missing imprint

A missing or incomplete imprint should always make you suspicious. Commercial providers are obliged to state their names and addresses and, in the case of legal entities, the legal form in the imprint. A commercial provider is already someone who only shows a single paid ad on their website. So whoever conceals more in the imprint than he reveals, may not want to be identified.

No contact options

The same applies to the contact options offered, especially in online shops. Are these clearly visible? Can anyone be reached at the given phone number? Is the email address still active and does the specified postal address even exist?. If everything looks serious, that’s a good sign. Otherwise: Be careful – it could be a dubious website!

Unclear terms and conditions

Customers today have got used to long, complicated general terms and conditions. Although this may not arouse enthusiasm, it is often unavoidable due to numerous legal provisions. However, the terms and conditions must be available and visible on the website. If this is not the case, the suspicion is that the respective provider has something to hide.

Lots of text errors

The textual design of a homepage can also be an indication of a deceptive website. Typical advertising texts that would also fit perfectly on a weekly market should make you prick up your ears. If the actual website fades into the background with all the special offers and discount campaigns, that is also a warning signal.

Read: Cyber security awareness for silver surfers: How to stay safe online

Excessive advertising

Advertising banners and ads are generally not a problem. But pop-ups are annoying and can pose a security risk. If you click on a specially prepared pop-up window, you can get malware (so-called “malware”) onto your computer.

Useless registration requests

It is common in online shops that customers can register and are asked to do so. On reputable websites, however, you can always continue the purchase process anonymously – without having to register and reveal private data (apart from the address, of course). Therefore, question every registration request: Is the data really necessary for the purchase? Dubious websites regularly ask users to enter their date of birth and other private data. Often associated with subscription traps and the permission to forward the data to third parties (or newsletters).

Insecure data transmission

If you are to enter payment data in an online shop, this must be done via a secure connection. You can see this in the URL line of your browser: There should be the abbreviation “https” at the beginning. In today’s browsers such as Firefox, Chrome or Safari, “safe” pages are now indicated by a lock symbol.

Restricted Payment Methods

A look at the payment methods offered can also help: If prepayment is the only payment method mentioned, you should stay away from it. For example, PayPal with buyer protection or a bank transfer are safer .


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Marianne elanotta

As a graduate in communication technologies, Marianne likes to share the latest technological advances in various fields. She likes to program in Java OO and Javascript and prefers to work on Open source operating systems. She likes to play chess and computer games in her spare time along with her 2 kids.

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