How do I avoid dangerous websites?

Question: How do I avoid dangerous websites?

There are billions of websites online, and while many of them are completely safe, there are also quite a few that are not. Are these dangerous websites unavoidable? How can Web searchers keep themselves safe from dangerous websites?

Answer: Staying safe on the Web should be a high priority for anyone who uses the Web. While the old saying "ignorance is bliss" applies in some situations, it most certainly does not apply to time spent online.

 The following suggestions and tips will help you to avoid dangerous websites and guard your safety online.

Use an Internet filter.

There are many Internet filters that you can buy or download that will prohibit you or members of your family from opening any questionable sites. These filters work by preventing user access to sites that are deemed questionable safety-wise, or that present inappropriate or NSFW (not safe for work) content. Many parents use these filters to make sure that their kids are only using sites that are age-appropriate, but people of all ages can use them to make sure that their web searches are always safe. 

Take advantage of search engines' built-in filters.

Many search engines give you the option of choosing a "safer" search when using their services. For example, Google offers safe search filtering that you can toggle on or off at the Advanced Search page. This goes for all image and video searches, as well as news and general search content.

These built-in search filters are free (unlike the previously mentioned software filters) and work quite well; the biggest difference between built-in search engine filters and software filters is simply access: if users know how to turn off search engine filters, they are relatively easy to get around.

 

Don't guess the address of a Web site.

This is probably the number one way that people get into trouble. If you are not absolutely sure what the URL of the site you're looking for, input the term instead into your favorite search engine. There are many sites that use similar Web addresses as legitimately safe websites so that when people try to remember which site to go to, they end up visiting the wrong site accidentally. 

Never click on sites that seem questionable.

When in doubt, don't click. If the site description, title, or URL seems in any way "off" to you, find another site that is more reputable, especially when using that site in a research capacity. Evaluate a website carefully to see if it meets certain criteria for believability, integrity, and credibility. If something about the website doesn't seem completely above board to you, and you sense that something is not quite right, it's better to be safe than sorry. 

Choose your searches carefully.

If you're searching for something that is perfectly innocent, but could be construed as inappropriate, think of different ways to frame your search so there are no unpleasant surprises. Read Top Ten Search Tricks to learn how to refine your searches more efficiently.

Unfortunately even the safest, most well-intentioned searches can end up in places that searchers didn't mean to go to. 

Use approved websites.

There are many search engines and search directories that have extremely high standards when it comes to including sites in their indexes. You can trust these sites to only offer information that is credible and safe:

Make Web safety a priority.

It only takes a few seconds for an unwary Web searcher's safety and privacy to be compromised on the Web. Use the following resources to guard yourself online: