While most online resources are safe, reliable, and secure, you always need to be aware of cyberattackers who create fake social media profiles, look-alike websites, and dangerous file shares. Without proper caution, attackers can steal your passwords, money, or personal info. They could even launch a cyberattack on organizations.

The defenses developers put in place to keep you and your accounts safe and secure are not foolproof. Therefore, your awareness can help you outmaneuver cybercriminals. Learn how to safely browse websites by following the information on this page or in Browser on Board: The basics of browsing safely pdf .

Recognize Unsafe Websites

Anyone can host digital content, including cybercriminals. There are not many restrictions and no one organization verifies that a domain is being purchased for legitimate reasons. Nobody checks to make sure websites are safe before being allowed online.

Unsafe website warning signs include:

  • A domain name that is close to that of a known, trusted domain, but not quite right. For example, a misspelling of the name.
  • Web addresses that do not include the domain name you would expect to see.
  • An invalid security certificate.
  • Sites mimicking well-known brands but with misspelled words or blurry images.
  • A lack of functionality you would expect a legitimate site to have.

Web Browser Security Features

Browsers have built-in features that will warn you if something is not right with a website. Here are just two examples of security alerts your browser may display.

  1. A warning that a site is not secure or cannot be authenticated. This is a serious risk if the site is asking you for sensitive data, like passwords or financial info.
  2. An alert that indicates a site is suspicious or deceptive. It may be suspected of being a phishing website or having malicious software. It may also try to trick you into downloading dangerous programs.

If you see one of these warnings or alerts stating that a site is not safe, don’t go there. Stick with known, trusted websites.

Simple Safe-Browsing Tips

  • Always examine domains closely. Even an extra number, letter, or hyphen is a big concern.
  • Do not interact with a website if there is any sign it is not safe or secure.
  • Avoid clicking links in emails, social media posts, and other communications. Instead, type in known, familiar web addresses yourself, directly into your browser. You can also use addresses you have already bookmarked.

Keep Your Browser Up-to-Date

A good, simple way to stay on top of known security issues is by keeping your browser up-to-date. Check your security settings regularly to make sure you are using the latest software version of the browser.

Terminology: Domain and URL Explained


  • The “core” name of the website (e.g., “google.com” for Google).
  • Takes you only to the website’s main landing page.

URL (Universal Resource Locator)

  • Commonly known as a “web address.”
  • Includes a domain as well as other identifying information.
  • Takes you to specific content within a website.
  • Tells you if a website transmits data securely. Seeing “https” in a URL is a common indicator.