Two ways to screen suspicious sites

I want to start off by saying — the internet can still be a scary place.  Good websites or sites that you should be able to trust can be taken over by malicious actors.

Sometimes I get asked, what is the difference between paid anti-virus software and free anti-virus software (ex.  like Windows Defender built into Windows 10).  The paid applications usually come with some sort of support.   For example, both Intego for Mac and ESET for Windows have a phone number that can be called if you run into trouble.    Many of the paid anti-virus programs also have additional tools that can help you screen malicious websites.

Recently, I served a customer whose Windows installation was trashed by an infected website.  The offending site was the online home of a reputable local business.   Several pages of their website was infected with malware.   Even after I fixed the problem for the client, I wanted to continue doing research on my own.  I decided to install Avast anti-virus.  Avast is a reputable product for Mac and Windows.  It’s on my recommended list.  However, I was surprised to discover that even Avast’s website filtering did not pick up on this infected site.    Then I thought — so what are my customers supposed to do?  How can my customers check on suspicious websites.   I have two answers for you.

If you are in doubt about any website that you have visited or will visit, check the site with one or both of these tools

1.  Blast from the past.  I have told you about Virus Total before.  This site is own by Google.  It can be used to scan a URL (website address) or an individual file that you have downloaded.  https://virustotal.com/    If any search result comes back as suspicious or infected, be very careful.

2.  The second tool I want to tell you about is the Sucuri Site Check.  Sucuri is a website security firm.  They help businesses maintain security websites.  However, the Site Check is a free tool for all of us to use.   When you scan a website at https://sitecheck.sucuri.net/  you are only looking for information pertaining to malware.  The Site Check tool will provide a lot of other valuable information, but it won’t be of much interest to you unless you are the owner of that website.  Despite the abundance of data, it is a very effective tool for identifying malware on websites.  

Both https://virustotal.com    and

https://sitecheck.sucuri.net/

would be good sites to bookmark.  

Be vigilant.  Don’t get bitten!

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