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Browsing with confidence

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image © 2006 Tinou Bao, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

Scams! Phishing! Adware! Malware! There's a lot of garbage out there, and its purveyors are continually becoming more sophisticated in creating illusions, trying to get us to "click on the wrong thing".

How can we tell if what we seem to see is what we're actually looking at? Is there a magic wand to dispel the illusions?

A good dose of skepticism and some healthy critical thinking can guide us, but there are also some cool tools that can help us out here.  One of them is the Web of Trust (WOT) browser extension. The WOT tool uses crowd-sourced user experience feedback to assign an overall rating of trustworthiness to a website. Separately, it can assign a rating of child-friendliness.

I cannot summarize WOT's appearance and functionality better than they do on their own website (https://www.mywot.com/), so I won't try except to say that it's free, it's fast, it works with all major browsers, and it's "always on" whether you're browsing or searching.

Crowd-sourced information isn't terribly precise; sometimes it's even completely wrong. But in many contexts it tends to be a pretty decent estimator. In the case of website trust, WOT provides a very convenient signpost, indicating whether you should plow ahead or stop and think twice about what you're seeing.

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