Ever seek out information online and end up somewhere you never meant to go? I’m not talking about some website that didn’t have what you were looking for, I’m talking about a website that you REALLY didn’t want to go to or would never go to. This is the dark side of the Net.
Think of it like this: when you drive, you might make take a wrong turn, and that wrong turn may result in you entering a bad neighborhood. But what’s scary about the dark side of the Web is that you didn’t end of on that website because you took a wrong turn, it’s because you were most likely re-directed there by cybercriminals.
There are 131 billion web searches conducted worldwide every month. Search engines consider numerous factors when you enter terms into a search query to determine what results to send back to you, including the popularity of the search, the number of times a page contains what you are searching on, what the search engines knows about you (like your device type and location), and the reputation of the links. These factors are utilized by marketing teams to make sure that relevant content is seen by you when you enter words to search for in your browser.
But this same process is also used by criminals who are looking to infect your device, and steal your personal information and finances. Criminals know that popular topics are ones that receive a lot of search queries and they use these topics to set up fake sites that are meant to cause you or your device harm.
Currently, there are more than 700,000 websites serving up malicious software and every minute a new phishing site is detected. In order to help you navigate the dark side of the Web and search safely, you should:
- Be suspicious: Any links to free stuff or too good to be true offers are suspect.
- Be cautious: Searches on hot topics, popular photos or videos are big targets for cybercriminals.
- Check the URL: Typosquatting (common misspellings that direct you to a fake site) or even expired domains can direct you to the dark side of the Net.
- Protect yourself: Use tools that offer secure Internet surfing. Make sure you use up-to-date comprehensive security software with a safe search plug-in on all your devices and that you are using the latest version of the operating system and browser on your device.
Robert Siciliano is an Online Security Expert to McAfee. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Mobile was Hacked! Disclosures.