Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Web of Trust – A Useful Tool.

I have had a couple incidents recently that highlight the usefulness of a tool I have been using of late and I thought I would pass on the name. The tool is called “Web of Trust”. You can download and install it from It is a tool you would use on your own PC, either at home or work. I don’t think it’s worth the effort to put it on a public surfing PC.

It's an add-on for your browser and you can install it on IE, Firefox, or Chrome. If you run all three browsers, you will have to do an install for each one. Then, of course, you have your staff PC, your staff notebook, your home PC, your spouses’ PC, and so it goes. There could be a lot of installing.

The idea with the Web of Trust is that you and I and the other users of the web have opinions about the reliability of various sites. Sites are rated based on these opinions and your browser will show you the results of these combined opinions with a red, yellow, or green circle on a site.

For example, I did a Google search for free music. A portion of the results are posted below.There are two red circles, and two green circles. I wouldn't go to the sites indicated by the red circles but I would go to the sites indicated by the green circles. If there were any yellow circles, I may have a look at them, but I would be pretty wary.

There is more to the Web of Trust than just colored circles. It can pop up warnings for risky sites, and you can get more information on a given site by clicking on the circle associated with that site. It is a useful tool that can help you stay away from risky sites. This would not be useful on Public PC though because patrons on our PCs don't care whether a site is risky or not.

Let me give you a couple examples how this was useful for the two incidents I mentioned earlier.

One of the staff here received the email shown below. Now there are a lot of reasons why this would look suspicious at first glance, and so she got suspicious and asked me about it. Well the “click here” phrase is a link. You know that you can put your cursor over a link in your email program and it will show you the link before you click on it. When you’re doing this make sure you DO NOT CLICK on the link. So this link had a URL, the domain of which I Googled. The hits that came back had a lot of red circles, just confirming her suspicions.


From: Smith, John []
Sent: Thursday, March 04, 2010 9:13 AM
Subject: Your E-mailbox Has Exceeded Its storage Limit.

Your mailbox has exceeded the storage limit which is 20GB as set by your
administrator, you are currently running on 20.9GB, you may not be able to
send or receive new mail until you re-validate your mailbox.
To re-validate your mailbox please

Thank you for your cooperation.
Webmail Help Desk.
System Administrator.


Another user here had discovered a database on the web look at every driver’s license in the US. She was appalled by this and sent an incredulous email with the URL to me and some others. Well, I’m sad to say, I bit. But as soon as the site came up in my browser, along with the red circle, I knew it was bad and just closed out the browser. Then I Googled again and found a comment about the bad site at Snopes. The bad site is probably nothing more than a prank site, but we really don’t know.

Snopes keeps track of urban legends and rumors. Find out about the drivers license site by going to snopes and use their search tool for “driver’s license look-up”. I am not going to give you the link to the driver’s license site itself.

You should have a look at snopes if you haven’t yet. It’s at and it gets a green circle. Also try out WOT. Be careful out there, and may all your hits be green.

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