If you're about to type private information (password, bank account details etc) into a web site, it's always a good idea to take a glance at your browser's address bar first. Does the address of the page start with https rather than just http? If so, it means that the site is encrypted and so it's much more difficult for a hacker to be intercepting your data.
To enable the use of encryption, the web site operator needs to apply for something called an SSL Certificate, which is a small text file that verifies their identity. They then need to install this file on their server. The certificate is only granted once the web site operator has proved their identity to the trusted company that issues certificates. And certificates generally expire after a year or 2, after which they need to be re-requested.
To check the validity of any web site whose security you're concerned about, and which uses https, head to https://ssltools.websecurity.symantec.com/checker/views/certCheck.jsp in your web browser and enter the address of the web site. It will verify that the SSL certificate used by the site is current and valid, and will also give you additional information about any other major vulnerabilities on the site.
If you run a web site that uses SSL, you can also use the system to check that your certificate is working correctly.
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