The mobile web can be a minefield of malicious links luring you to click so bad guys can infect your device. Search engines do their best to filter out these sites, but nefarious criminals have found ways to get their scammy pages to the top of search results through a process called black hat search engine optimization.
Criminals create fake websites and then use the same techniques as legitimate online businesses do regarding search engine optimization, marketing and online advertising. They use keywords to boost rankings on internet search engines, causing their fake websites to appear alongside legitimate ones.
It is also much harder to tell if a URL is legitimate since due to the limited screen space, mobile browsers especially often truncate web addresses. Also, if you’re clicking on a link to a site from an email you received, it’s hard to see the full sender’s email address; this makes it hard for you to know whether it’s coming from a fake person or company. Finally, the “hover over” option that many of us use to preview URLs on computers doesn’t work yet on most touch screen mobile devices.
Wireless internet also contributes to risky web searching. Unsecured, unprotected, unencrypted and sometimes shared wireless internet communications over WiFi in your home, office or any publicly connected WiFi (such as at a coffee shop, airport or hotel) are vulnerable to sniffers.
On wireless connections that aren’t properly secured—such as public ones—your best line of defense is to use a virtual private network software that protects your identity by ensuring that all web transactions (shopping, filling out forms, downloads) are secured through HTTPS. Hotspot Shield VPN is a good one to use. It’s secure, free to you (supported by ads) and available for PC, Mac, iPhone and Android.
Robert Siciliano is an Identity Theft Expert to Hotspot Shield VPN. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen See him discussing internet and wireless security on Good Morning America. Disclosures.