028: Who do you Trust? Web of Trust (WOT)

I was asked a few weeks ago by Di if I trusted a particular website she wanted to download some software from. It’s not an easy question to answer. I spent a fair bit of time googling the product and the site owner and came to the judgement that the site and what they are offering seem legitimate.

But it’s a lot of work and something I’m asked to do relatively frequently. As part of that investigation, I stumbled upon a product that will do it for me. It’s not perfect, but it’s a great guide. Today I want to introduce you to WOT The Web of Trust extension for Google Chrome and other browsers. We discussed extensions a few weeks ago so I won’t go over that again, I’ll just link it up above and delve into the specifics of this extension.

WOT is a free extension that checks the reputation of each site against WOT’s database of trust gleaned from millions of users across the internet. Any time you do a search WOT scans all the links on the page and puts a small WOT donut beside each link: Green for safe, Yellow for suspicious and Red for unsafe. If the page is unrated it gets a grey donut. It’s worth noting that a great donut is not necessarily a warning, more a sign that the site may get few visitors.

You can also click on the donut to see a detailed WOT page for the site. If you try and go to a site with a poor reputation, a pop-up will appear, warning you that the site is potentially malicious. Really handy.

One other nice feature is that if you’re reading your email in Chrome WOT will highlight the unsafe links in email without cluttering the page with all the safe links. This can be another handy tool for spotting scams in emails.

The other great thing is that you can rate and review any site yourself. In recording this episode I found that a link in my emails to sendgrid.net was marked as red (unsafe). Sendgrid is an email delivery service used by both legitimate and disreputable companies alike. I was able to go in and rate the site as yellow, suspicious which I believe more accurately represents the site and I also left a detailed review explaining why. This then adds to the collective wisdom of the site as a whole.

It’s worth noting that there has been a privacy issue noted with WOT back in late 2016, they were found by a German media outlet to be storing the search data in a way that could be identified. The extension was removed and reworked and re-released in early 2017 with boosted anonymization techniques to protect users. I’m not one to get massively hung up on privacy issues but if you’re really concerned then you’ve been warned.

I personally think this is an excellent extension, especially for users nervous about the websites they’re going to.

A special thanks to Di for her question, I hope this helps you feel safe.

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Have a great week!

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