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Check a Website’s Safety Before You Visit the Site

Filed under: PC Security 

If you are browsing the internet a lot, you most likely have your computer’s security up to date. That means you have a good firewall installed, use antivirus software that you keep up to date, and run regular scans and checkups to prevent malware, spyware and security risks.

But as with many things, prevention is better than the cure, so would it not be nice to know which websites are safe to visit and which ones are not? Of course you trust the sites that are very popular and that you frequently visit, but what about new websites that turn up in your search results?

McAfee SiteAdvisor

McAfee has a very useful piece of software called SiteAdvisor. It can be downloaded and installed for free, and it provides you with information regarding the safety of web pages.
Downloading and installing is easy, the download checks your browser and ensures you download the right version. Internet Explorer 6 and later is supported, as well as FireFox 1.5 and later.

Once the software is installed, you will have a SiteAdvisor button in the browser (in the bottom for FireFox, in the top for Internet Explorer). The button color indicates the safety level of the web page that is active in your browser. Green indicates the site is safe, Orange indicates the safety is doubtful, and red indicates the site is unsafe. If the button is grey, this indicates the site has not been assessed yet.

SiteAdvisor menu

McAfee checks a site on various aspects to assess its trustworthiness. Pop-ups play a role, the links on the site, the use of cookies, and a few other aspects. Details can be accessed by clicking the SiteAdvisor button and then clicking View Site Report. A web page shows all the security details for the site as assessed by McAfee SiteAdvisor.

And it is not only the sites you visit, because that could still be too late. Even the search results for Google and other search engines show the SiteAdvisor security rating.

McAfee SiteAdvisor search results

The icon at the right side of the search result title indicates the SiteAdvisor rating, using the same color schema as the main SiteAdvisor button. If you move over the icon with your mouse cursor, you will see a small popup with the security information. Click More info in the popup to view all security details.
Now you can actually decide whether you want to visit a site or not based on the safety of the site.

Web Of Trust

Maybe you do not want to rely on a security vendor’s assessment of a site alone. In that case there is an alternative to SiteAdvisor, which is called Web Of Trust, or WOT.
WOT also comes as a plug-in (or add-on) to both FireFox and Internet Explorer. The concept is the same as the McAfee SiteAdvisor, but in this case the security level of a website is maintained by user feedback. All registered users can provide input to the safety level of the sites they visit.

WOT works in the same way as the SiteAdvisor, a menu button is used to bring up the details for the current site. Each site is rated in 4 categories, trustworthiness, vendor reliability, privacy, and child safety. Colors are used to indicate the safety level, and a row of people graph is used to indicate the number of people who have rated the site.

WOT menu

Like SiteAdvisor, WOT also shows the safety level of search results using colors. If you click the WOT icon in the search result, you go to the details that are available on the site in the main WOT site. There you can see all comments that users gave on the site.

Search result safety in WOT

Of course both McAfee SiteAdvisor and WOT can help you keep your PC secure. Which one you use depends on your personal preference. WOT might have reviews on more sites, because everyone can contribute, but that is also a limitation in itself. A site that you use frequently, and know is safe, could be marked unsafe by someone on WOT, and vice versa of course. If a site has many reviews in WOT, the reliability of the security assessment will go up though, so consider that when deciding which pages to visit.

Let us know which one you like and why!


9 Comments to “Check a Website’s Safety Before You Visit the Site”

  1. How Do You Know If A Site Is Safe?…

    In a recent posting on our discussion board, a visitor asked about the safety of a site where people can search for money that might be owed them. In fact,   is a legitimate Web site that helps consumers discover funds owed to…..

  2. Wesley says:

    thanks for the backlink.

  3. “How Do You Know If A Site Is Safe” we can’t know why it’s appear spam sign, but just believe it to the profesional Mcafee. it’s just my opinion.

  4. You need more than just a Firewall and Anti-Virus if you plan on staying protected on the Internet.

  5. Anthony says:

    @Cheap Notebook – Indeed, McAfee is a company, but WOT is a public instrument, which is based on multiple different site users.

    @Big Geek Daddy – Of course you do, but the article is not about that. It is about instruments that help you assess a website’s safety, not protecting your PC.

  6. is this a legitame web site is it safe.

  7. Anthony says:

    @Aida – If you are referring to the website, then I would be careful. The website feedback for that site on WOT is not very positive….

  8. Krasi says:

    I dont trust any of those websites, users there post whatevery they want and can lower your website safety rating just because they feel like it and not because they actually checked the website :(

  9. lesle says:

    Valentine’s Day Internet Traps?
    From: SunbeltSecurityNews (
    Sent: Wed 2/10/10

    Also be careful about your Valentine’s Day searches. Do not walk into any shady web sites. How do you know if a web site is unscrupulous? Well let me tell you what I just did. I conducted a Google search for “website safety check” and got the following: “Check a Website’s Safety before You Visit the Site” and I clicked on it. Thankfully I was running VIPRE Premium 4.0 because I got the following message! “VIPRE has determined that the site you are trying to visit is malicious.” Now that is what I call protection!

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