Ever had the feeling the site you’re visiting doesn’t have your best interests in mind?

We might regard ourselves as advanced web users, but occasionally double-take when visiting a new website. Google a search term and you see a whole host possible options, including paid website ads and there’s very little stopping a rogue retailer from popping up and populating their store with known brands.

Anyone can register a .com or .co.uk and you can host one of these domains from any location. There’s simply nothing stopping a company in Asia, from obtaining a .co.uk and then setting up a store with a bunch of fake products.

So, how do you avoid these sites? Or, as important, how do you stop other, more novice users, from getting caught out? One solution is Web of Trust which is a browser plugin.

Web of Trust is a community-based web safety system, which relies solely on end users reporting (or rating) a website. It’s a relatively simple concept. If you know a website is legit, you can rate it for other users. Once a few ratings are in, you’ll see a shaded warning when you visit a website. If it’s light green, people mostly trust the site. Dark green and it’s completely fine. Orange, be wary and red is simply avoid.

When rating a site, you can offer additional detail. For example, whereas the site may be legitimate, it might not be child-friendly and you can warn other users in advance. You can also add a reason why you don’t rate a particular website. You can mark the site as a scam or retailer who has offered a poor customer experience.

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When another user installs the Web of Trust plugin and searches for a website using Google or another engine, site ratings are listed for every search result, enabling you to quickly see which sites might be legitimate and others you should avoid (and why).

The Web of Trust system has been around for years. It’s not a recent concept. Indeed, it’s received it’s own bad press through it’s history. The reason we are featuring it again is because the system had a complete re-write to make it more engaging. But, it’s always worth noting that even trust systems can be compromised. In theory, although your IP address is noted, there’s no stopping multiple people rating even a malicious website as trusted.

There are other similar rating systems available. Two of note are Bitdefender TrafficLight and Norton SafeWeb.

Download a Web of Trust plugin for Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Opera or Internet Explorer. There’s no Edge plugin, yet.

This article originally appeared at softwarecrew.co.uk

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