You've probably heard someone talk about downloading a URL or been asked to click on a link to a URL, without really knowing what that URL stands for or whether the link is safe.
A URL, or Uniform Resource Locator, refers to a specific resource on the internet – like house and street information refers to an address.
So how can you tell if a URL or website is safe?
Today, if you aren’t using a tool or service that will identify malicious sites, you will eventually land on a site that is riddled with malware and will pass that malware onto your computer, tablet, laptop or phone. But you can avoid falling victim to malware by selecting one of several tools that will test the safety of a website before you visit it.
Here is an outline of your two primary tools for identifying safe and malicious websites:
Use tools that check the safety and security of websites automatically as you browse.
All common browsers have tools that are designed to warn you if a URL/link is malicious.
Many security software packages also offer this type of functionality.
There are also independent tools you can download to monitor URLs in search results. Many of them are free.
Use an online service that lets you enter a URL and will go out and test the link in real time to see if it contains any malware or is safe to use. The downside of these services is that you have to manually run this process every time you want to visit an unknown website, the advantage is that you don’t have to install any software on your computer. This includes services like URLVoid, ScanURL, or Brightcloud's URL/IP Lookup.
While these tools do not replace your need to have security software installed and up to date on every one of your internet-connected devices, they will help you significantly reduce the risk of infecting your devices, having your identity stolen by malware or losing control over your passwords and banking authentication tools.