In today’s day and age it is difficult to keep up with all the individual technological advancements. Just in one day you receive a long list of email newsletters from websites you forgot you had subscribed too. This is sent in conjunction with boring marketing campaigns discussing important topics like phishing and internet protection, which you never read.
The everyday reader usually reads less than a thousand words, so if a post contains more than this your audience will in most cases lose interest. We live in a world of quick fire information, clickbait headlines and GIF’s. Everything we do now is instant. Audiences only have time for a second to hover over your ad before flicking up or clicking X…. So without my ranting turning this into a blog post over a thousand words let me dive into what it means to “Be Internet Smart in 2019.”
Vetting is your friend
Every day new websites are setup and fresh original and engaging content is shared. Now, how do we know that its from an accredited source. Well that is sometimes very difficult to figure out, however we can ask ourselves the following questions to vet a site:
How long have they been around?
Maturity begets trust. It’s the same as how we are comfortable with familiar brands launching a new flavour of cool drink or crisps. We know the brand has brought out successful flavours before so we give them the opportunity to capture our taste buds again. Especially in the context of FMCG where we have a brand association build from a very young age. It’s why today with the popularity of Cryptocurrencies there appear to be newcomers everyday. We become hesitant to trust the product that “promises everything.” A lot has been proven to be “get rich quick scams” but there is one that has trust throughout the crypto community – Satoshi Nakamoto’s Bitcoin. Ironically, this was created by someone whose identity is still very much under speculation but the coin itself is the oldest and therefore most trusted.
Are there Referrals?
This plays a huge part when it comes to the success of an online store. People buy from people, the more we advance with AI and Machine Learning the greater importance we place on human connection – even if it’s just a comment from a stranger in the review section. Simply typing ‘shop’ on your browser pulls a never ending list of online stores that you would never have heard of before. Navigating through this list comes down to trusting the one with the best reviews or comments validating the purchase someone just like you made.
That is why when referring a brand or an ecommerce store we say; “Hey, I know the perfect place it’s called ____ my ____ orders from there.” When this is said face-to-face the recommendation is taken seriously. When done online it is profound.
Where is the Credibility?
Well this one is a stickler, I mean how are we supposed to answer this? Well, it’s much simpler than you think. Businesses all need to have a website, it is their digital handshake. They hire digital agencies that have a team of Web Developers and Designers to make it tick all the boxes. To get all the ticks many will (and should) setup legitimate Wikipedia pages, showcase their business certificates like B-BBEE Certificate or Trade Certificate, highlight their participation with local communities in CSR initiatives. These additions on a website go a long way in you choosing their services.
If I were a Search Engine? What would I do?
Our modern browsers come packed with a whole bunch of security features, one specific feature I enjoy seeing is the popup blocker. It may sound foreign to you right now however you’ve seen it a lot.
Modern browsers and Search Engines have introduced new ways to flag sites that may harm you and your device. These messages show up before the website you’re visiting loads. They display a warning message asking for your consent to continue to load the following website.
When this occurs I never give consent as some of these sites are designed and set up to steal sensitive information like your: bank details, passwords, saved documents etc. Legitimate websites use saved cookies and other technologies to assure your safety when using their URL. However, these files can be reversed engineered to either harm the user (you) or the cookie owner. Remember some websites are poorly coded and may save sensitive information onto unencrypted cookie files – but the warning before the website loads should be everything you need to know.
Despite this there are some well known brands / businesses that are slow in updating their website. They fall behind the tech advancements and rely on the past implementations. This in turn gets their websites flagged as being malicious or phishing sites.
Where is the TLS/SSL Certificate?
The Transport Layer Security (TLS) sometimes referred to as the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) Certificate is represented by the ‘S’ in ‘https’ which is usually associated with the Padlock on the top left of the URL bar. It is a cryptographic public key which acts as a digital / identity certificate. It also acts as an electronic document that proves ownership of a public key. It is another level of protection that a web master provides their website with. Some of these certificate issuers vet the website owners and require them to prove they are in fact a registered business operating in a physical location. One can usually find the business / physical address displayed in the URL field of the browser only if they are using the highest level of validation referred to as Extended Validation certificates (EV).
In layman terms, it’s similar to how you get mail delivered to your house from the post office. You find the package or letter properly sealed with no sign of tampering. This is what the TLS / SSL is effectively doing. It returns requests in an encrypted formatted which is later decrypted by your browser from the server so even if someone did get their hands on the returned request they will receive an encrypted version of the request.
AAA? (Assurance Assurance Assurance)
Many online businesses, such as ecommerce stores or education facilities have implemented this approach. Maybe these logos ring a bell:
These third parties have one sole responsibility which is to vet websites – at a cost to the owners – and vouch for its legitimacy. Each website is issued with a unique license which is linked to their logo on their website. The logo becomes a clickable link to the issuers’ site, where the issuer will prove beyond a doubt that the website in question has been vetted.
Now, the next time you receive a bunch of newsletters in your inbox or see a post about website security on your Social Media feed, take the time to read what is being offered. Chances are, it could save you, your precious time and sensitive information from being stolen.
It’s time to “Be Internet Smart In 2019” …1128 words we hope you got to the end.