Websites: Genuine or Not?
Lots of us now depend heavily on the internet to find out all kinds of information, from the weather and current news events to doing homework. How often though, has an internet search taken you to a completely unexpected website or resulted in a strange warning message? How do you know if a website is bona fide or not? To avoid problems you need to understand a few key points.
Let your mouse ‘hover’ over a potential link you may wish to visit, but don’t click on it. Now look in the bottom left hand corner of your Internet Browser on the Status Bar. This will be the true web address, despite what the link might say. (If your Status Bar is not visible press [Alt] and [V] together and enable it in the toolbar menu). Here’s how to check the address before you click.
Consider this (genuine) BBC news website address: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/
It consists of three parts separated by slashes: protocol//domain name/path
The important part is the domain name which needs to be read from right to left to understand it properly. So www.bbc.co.uk can be thought of as a UK domain (.uk), for companies (.co), in this case run by the BBC (.bbc).
Now compare this to a fake address: https://www.427fb.com/facebook/login.php.
Here the domain name is www.427fb.com which could be a (US) company perhaps called 427fb - nothing whatsoever to do with Facebook then. Also be wary of letter and number substitutions, e.g. a zero in place of an ‘O’ as in www.faceb00k.com
Unfortunately, even this knowledge won’t protect a user visiting a genuine website which has already been infected with malicious content, such as a fake warning message. The website address may appear fine, but the content on the site isn’t. This is the classic ploy used by scareware programs which take control of websites with weak or no security and change the contents for their own nefarious purposes. With some detective work, it is still possible to see that the fake message is actually a webpage. That is, if you’ve taken the trouble to look at the real address in the Status Bar as described above.
© Peter Johnston, ByteSupport Ltd 2011.