WEB OF MISTRUST

Web of TrustWe tend to use Google Chrome for browsing the web because it’s faster and more secure than Internet Explorer or Firefox, but every so often we’re nearly sandbagged by a malicious site.

If you’re on a fake site, Chrome warns you by displaying the “http:” part of the web address in red instead of green. For example, several times we thought we were on the American Airlines website because the address was the usual AA.com. At least twice, we were about to buy a ticket when we noticed it was a fake site. Chrome showed the “http” in red.

Of course, not everyone uses Chrome so there have to be other warning systems. What about a new one called “Web of Trust,” or “WOT” from mywot.com? When you do a search, it puts a red dot next to the listing for any so-called dangerous site. Great, we thought before we experienced it. Though this service has been praised by the largest computer magazines and web sites and even got a recommendation from the New York Times, we found serious problems. For instance it put red warning dots on the web sites for AT&T and Sprint. We just tried those two sites at random; there are probably many reputable companies that would come up with red dot warnings.

We discovered that you can have that red dot removed if you pay for WOT’s certification. This costs $777 a year for the “pro” seal of approval and $469 a year for the, lesser, standard seal. Apparently neither AT&T nor Sprint were willing to pay. They probably don’t even know they’ve been tagged. Clicking on the red dots to get more information, we read the user complaints. There were only two. One said something totally unrelated to AT&T. The other read “BP sucks.” What BP had to do with AT&T was a mystery. Maybe it was because they both use initials.

We have an acquaintance, Eileen Brown, who has a web design company website, buddyservices.com. It also got the damning red-dot from “Web of Trust.” Ridiculous, she said. She does her own HTML coding and doesn’t even put tracking cookies or ads on her site. Neither do we on our site oncomp.com. Fortunately, we saw no red dots.

Trying to get the one-month free trial of WOT’s seal of approval however, brought up a warning that it “does not meet the criteria for a trusted site. Please see our tips or consider purchasing our WOT reputation badge.” Our web site has been up for 14 years, and the newspaper column has been running for 30 years. We’ll just have to struggle along without buying the reputation badge.

A better way to go for screening web sites is to use Chrome’s web browser and McAfee’s free site advisor from siteadvisor.com.

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