Most of us who are mildly technologically adept and have been perusing the internet for a number of years are probably aware that visiting a shady website can give you a virus. Likewise, most of us have heard of digital dangers such as viruses, trojans, malware, and hackers. Albeit, a large portion of us either do not have the knowledge or time to think about dangerous websites or lurking digital dangers. The reality is that none of us would want our sensitive information or even personal safety compromised as a result of dangerous websites, so we must consider the information in the next sections and apply the respective proper precautions.
First of all, what exactly does the term ‘shady’ entail though, and what does that have to do with visiting websites? With regards to that, there is a distinct connection to the digital dangers we mentioned and illegitimate websites. Such dangers (or risks) can be consequences of simply visiting unsecured or malicious websites which millions of people are doing at this very moment, while their personal data and devices are silently being compromised, unbeknownst to them. Because cybercriminal and scammer methods have become so state-of-the-art, it is not always possible to tell if a website is dangerous from the surface. For this reason, we need to glance at what constitutes a dangerous website, and how to steer clear of them for good.
Why Are There Dangerous Websites Out There?
When it comes to internet access, more than half of the population on planet Earth is now connected to the internet spanning across first and third-world countries, from the farthest reaches of the West to the wildest regions of the East. In 1992, at the inception of the public internet, the number of websites online was 10. In 1994, there were 3,000. Today in 2021, there are around 1.2 billion websites on the internet, with about 200 million of them being active. Over 250,000 websites are created every single day. Of the enormous amount of websites online today, statistics from Google show that over 2 million websites are scams, or phishing websites and this trend is on a vertical rise. There are also a host of unsecured websites that contain malware, as well as notorious websites that you should not be accessed for your security.
What is The Internet Unsafe?
Global internet penetration is growing each day and soon most of the world’s population will be online. What is more, the entire world is being digitally transformed as we speak e.g. the sheer number of online devices are in the billions, the billions of social media users, billions of YouTube views, and trillions of Google search to date are evidence of this. A real ‘metaverse’ in all senses is on the horizon. In addition, both the consumer and business world are being designed with the internet in mind from the ground up. Emerging technologies are taking center stage, and how we live is being evolved into a human-digital symbiosis.
As the real world moves into the digital, it is only natural that the dark side of human nature does as well. An online population proves a very fertile ground for malicious entities like scammers and cybercriminals. With so many potential victims out there that are unprotected by cybersecurity tools and unarmed with cybersecurity knowledge, the rewards to be reaped for the ill-intentioned among us are vast. To that end, some of the simplest scams and criminal techniques involve the use of shady websites for the purposes of financial gain, espionage, and theft of data.
What is a Dangerous Website?
A dangerous, risky or shady website is one that either; contains or links to illicit material, is unsecured, contains malware, or is designed as a phishing website. Such websites have the following attributes;
- No HTTPS encryption or valid SSL certificates
- Website built by scammers that mirror legitimate websites
- Websites that contain lots of ads and pop-ups
- Websites that offer free downloads or other free content
- Websites that contain illegal material
- Websites on the dark web
What Can Happen if You Visit a Shady Website?
By far the most common way most people and businesses are subjected to a scam or infected with malware (viruses, trojans, worms, keyloggers, ransomware) is via email phishing scams. This cybercrime technique is also one that requires the least amount of effort from cybercriminals while reaping the largest rewards. The technique is simple; a fraudulent email that includes a malicious email or attachment that either leads to a dangerous website or contains infected files in an attachment to compromise individuals or business users. Secondly, visiting fraudulent websites that offer free content, pirated content, illicit content or simply unsecured websites are an immediate danger to internet users.
Here is a shortlist of what can happen if you visit a shady website;
- Your internet connection or network can be compromised
- Your device can be infected with malware
- You can be spied on or tracked
- You can be tricked to give over your trust into clever social engineering scams
- You can attract the attention of authorities or dangerous hackers
How to Steer Clear of Shady Websites
To stay safe while browsing the infinite amount of websites out there, it is important to be armed with the following knowledge and tools;
- Never stay on a website that does not have HTTPS (lock icon) in the address bar
- Stay away from websites that have shortened URLs or misspelled words
- Do not venture on the dark web if you do not know what you are doing
- Steer clear of free music, free streaming, and pirated content websites
- Never interact with emails from unknown senders or download attachments from them
- Use a premium VPN or Virtual Private Network cybersecurity network protection tool
- Run a premium antimalware program on your devices
- Keep all of your operating systems and program application software updated
- Browse the internet with a security-focused web browser
The internet is a living, breathing digital world that is brimming with scammers, cybercriminals, surveillance, and malicious individuals. On the other hand, it is also one of our greatest technological feats and makes life more enjoyable. For that reason, we have to approach the internet with a little bit of respect and caution.
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