I was talking with someone at work today about the Internet. They mentioned that they are always confused about how to know if the website they are at is really the ‘real website’. The example they mentioned was an Online Banking website. They have heard about fake sites being setup to trick you into providing your login details and then people steal all of your money. This is a legitimate concern, because people really do setup fake sites and do exactly that, take your money. The good news is that if you are using an up-to-date web browser (Firefox or IE7), and use your eyes then you can easily know if you are at a real site or a fake site. The address bar is the area at the top of your browser window where you would type in a website address. I have learned that tons of people surf the web without typing anything or ever looking at the address bar. If you are one of those people then this information will be extra important for you. So, this blog post is intended to explain to whomever takes the time to read this, why it is important to simply look at your address bar to see where you are on the Internet.

Here is a picture of my address bar. You should see something similar to this at the top of your web browser.

addressbar

Let me provide an example of why it is important to look at your address bar. You get an email from Bank of America for some special offer, and you want this offer. You click a link in the email. The site you go to looks like the Bank of America site and it has a login form. You are excited to get this great offer from Bank of America. But wait. STOP! Before you log into this site you need to look at the address bar in your browser. Why?

If you see https://www.bankofamerica.com , then you are probably at the real Bank of America website. However, since you clicked a link in an email you may not want to 100% trust this due to some older browser vulnerabilities. IE7 has some anti-phishing tools that are good to have enabled. If you are not using an up-to-date browser you should install Firefox or IE7 as soon as possible. Old Web browsers can put you at risk to get tricked into logging into a fake site.

If you see https://123576.fhdhs.com , or any other site then you are at what is called a Phishing site. If you log into this site some criminal will get your Bank of America login information and will then have full access to your Bank Account.
You may even see something like https://bankofamerica.fhdhs.com . The fhdhs.com portion is the site you are going to if you click this link. I know it says bankofamerica in the link, but it simply isn’t the Bank of America website. Why? You should read a URL from right to left, and not left to right. That portion directly before the .com is the real website you are heading to, and that does not say bankofamerica.com.

I know someone right now is really concerned at how easy it might be for someone to setup a fake site and trick you. But don’t be concerned. Keep your web browser up to date and use your eyes to look at the address bar and you will be fine. Another simple rule of thumb to avoid fake sites is, simply don’t ever go to an important site by clicking on a link. You should go to important sites directly and never through a link in an email or from another website. Legitimate banking sites don’t ever provide login links or ever ask for personal information about you or your account through email. So simply getting such a request through email should be ignored, ignore it even if the email says that the bank is going to take your house. If you are actually concerned give the bank a call, but don’t mess around with the email or any links that might be in it. If you still want to go to the Bank of America website simply type www.bankofamerica.com into your address bar or use a favorite or bookmarked link. You don’t have to use a link to get to a website, that is what the address bar is for. 🙂

For some , this may be a new way to surf the web. But it is extremely important to look at your address bar. It is simple and could save you from a lot of hassle and financial loss. Know where you are on the Internet. And only provide login information when you are 100% sure you are at the website you intend to be at. The eyes built into your head are your best tool for keeping you safe online.