Best Free Internet Safety Check

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Introduction

In the past, I've relied on parental filters and anti-virus software. Well, now I've been forced to use these safety checks since I've found them to be very useful. I sure like checking on a website before I risk browsing it. Even though it doesn't replace any of my existing security measures - except perhaps the parental filter - this additional layer of security is really useful.

Check out this review of internet safety check which covers two sections: Installed Software and Online Services. I've rated these products by looking at six criteria:

  • Ratings that are reliable with more information close at hand.
  • Scanning that doesn't slow me down too much.
  • Warning about and blocking of risky sites.
  • Searching options including icons that link to the full rating.
  • Compatibility and integration with the web browsers and operating systems.
  • Detecting web pages and sites that have active or reported threats

See also More About Internet Safety Check at the end of this review.

 

Installed Software

Web of Trust (WOT)  

The best tool that tells you which websites you can trust based on user ratings


Our Rating: 
4
License: Free
Fast; highly compatible but works best in Firefox; works with the most search engines and even Google image search; multiple categories of user comment; excellent warning and blocking; child safety rating; excellent documentation.
Less functionality in browsers other than Firefox; slow on image search results.
Read full review...

McAfee WebAdvisor  

A solid website advisor but unexceptional


Our Rating: 
3
License: Free (Limited features)
Works with many search engines; good site report; generally fast; McAfee crawl the web scanning sites.
No blocking; limited user ratings.
Read full review...

LinkExtend  

The best installed meta-rater which has an excellent reputation with users


Our Rating: 
2.5
License: Free
Combines other free rating sources; provides a lot more information; works with Google and Yahoo! search.
Firefox and Chrome only for automated rating, Internet Explorer requires visits to each website; only two search engines; no warning or block screens; no link to detailed information so you will have to go to each rating source.
Read full review...

Online Services

These online safety checks are less convenient but very useful.

VirusTotal  

Checks websites and files against several rating services and blacklists, and scans with multiple anti-virus engines


Our Rating: 
4
License: Free
Online service works with any browser; high accuracy; rates and scans in one check; 68 scanners; 13 raters; installable versions for Firefox, Chrome and Internet Explorer.
Slow reporting for scans; browser add-ons do very little.
Read full review...

Trend Micro Site Safety Center  

A simple rating with the category of threat and has equivalent accuracy to the other Trend Micro products


Our Rating: 
3
License: Free
Works with any browser; good threat detection; quick response; also categorizes sites.
Limited features.
Read full review...

URLVoid  

An online internet safety rater that has more tools than others


Our Rating: 
3
License: Free
Works with any browser; 25 raters; 6 scanners; other tools e.g. IPVoid.com for IP addresses.
Separate checks for rating and scanning.
Read full review...

McAfee Threat Library  

Twice as effective as McAfee WebAdvisor in identifying websites with active threats


Our Rating: 
3
License: Free
Effective rater; search database for IP address, DNS server, malware name, vulnerability name, etc.
n/a
Read full review...

Related Products and Links

You might want to check out these articles too:

General Security Advice

Resident Security Products

On-Demand Antimalware Products

Safe Practices

 

More About Internet Safety Check

Rating and scanning

The two types of safety check for a web address or URL are rating and scanning. Scan the website for threats (right now when I need it) or rate the reputation of the website using other sources of information: what people think of it, whether it has been associated with any dishonest or illegal activity, and what other security databases have on record which can include the results of your past scans.

Safety checks are easy to install and use

These products are easy to install and use because there are few options to configure. Most run in the background while you browse the Web and only pop-up when they identify a problem. The products mainly install as a browser add-on for each supported web browser. Just be warned that browsing can be noticeably slower and will usually crawl on a dial-up connection or if you run several products at the same time. Often there is a single button added to the toolbar (as with WOT) and sometimes an entire new toolbar (as with LinkExtend).

Online safety checks are an alternative

If you don't want to install more software on your computer then you can use an online service. You manually check websites by typing or copying the web address into the online check website. They are less convenient but are an effective option particularly to get a second opinion. I've included the best in this article but the remainder can be found in the full list of products reviewed.

Web browsers have built-in safety checks

Many of you will realize that you are already using an internet safety rating as a feature of your web browser. For example, Microsoft calls it SmartFilter for Internet Explorer, and Firefox has options to block "reported attack sites" and "reported web forgeries".  Apart from Internet Explorer, the main web browsers source their safety data from other vendors: Firefox, Chrome and Safari use data from Google Safe Browsing; and Opera relies on AVG. I tested them in the same way as the other products and services. In terms of detecting bad websites they were in the middle third of the products I reviewed.

Color-coded results

WOT rating symbolsTypically, the products present their results with color-coded symbols as shown in the image from Web of Trust (WOT). The WOT scorecard uses rating symbols that have five levels of color from dark green for trustworthy, yellow for concern, and orange to red for dangerous. Grey is used for unrated sites. Most programs work in a similar way, placing an icon beside web links so that moving the mouse over the icon will display the rating; and clicking on the icon or pop-up displays the full scorecard. Online meta-scanners, which use the results of many different scans, are the main exception. Although many use similar colors their rating is usually the fraction of the tests for problems found e.g. 9 of 15, 9/15.

 

Editor

This software review is copy-edited by Glyn Burgess. Please help edit and improve this article by clicking here.

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Comments

Lots of bad links in the Supplement to this article.

I will soon be updating this article and correcting them.

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