How do you know if a website is safe or whether clicking a download link will lead to malware on your computer? Install the VirusTotal Chrome extension and it will tell you. Here’s how.
The internet is built on links – links to other websites and web pages, links to software, links to PDF and other document types, links to photos and videos, and so on.
The vast majority of these are safe, but hidden among them are a few that are not and clicking a link could take you to a website that has been hacked or has malware on it, or has been associated with undesirable or even illegal activities. Clicking a link to a file could download a malicious file that installs a virus or even encrypts all your files and demands a ransom to unlock them.
How do you protect against these threats?
Security software helps a lot of course and that is an essential tool to have. However, there are extra tools that can be useful for increasing your safety and security when using the internet and the VTchromizer Chrome extension is one of these. It works with the VirusTotal website.
What is VirusTotal?
VirusTotal is a website owned by Google and it enables websites and files to be scanned for malware. It is not a security product itself but it has access to around 70 of the most popular security products and services. A website URL or a file can be submitted to VirusTotal and it is tested against not one security product, but all of them!
The aim is to avoid false positives where one specific security program flags something as malicious but others do not. The result from every security product is shown and if 60+ say something is safe and 2 report it as malware, you can go with the majority decision and assume the 2 are false positives.
Check websites with VirusTotal for Chrome
Go and get the VTchromizer extension for Chrome. It adds an icon to the right side of the address box, which when clicked, shows a small panel.
The most important option here is to scan the current site and this opens a new tab on the VirusTotal website to display the results. You are unlikely to be the first person to want to scan a site and so the most recent scan result is displayed. However, there is an option to scan it again if you suspect something might have changed since the last scan.
Look at the detection ratio – 1/67 which means that one security product thought the website had malware, but 66 didn’t. It is safe to assume that the odd one out is a false positive.
Check file downloads with VirusTotal
Suppose you see a download on a web page and you want to know whether it is safe or malware. Before you download it and before it gets anywhere near your computer, right click the download link on the web page and select Check with VirusTotal on the menu. Here is an example.
The URL is sent to the VirusTotal website and a report is displayed on a new tab. None out of 67 security products reported any problems with the URL, but what about the file itself?
There is a link near the top to go to downloaded file analysis – click it to see a new report on the actual download. This time around, 64 security products we used to scan the file for malware and once again, none reported any problems.
Using VirusTotal to check the site and the download and seeing a clean bill of health means that we can rest assured that if we go ahead and download this program it is completely safe.
Of course, we have security software on the computer, but that is just one opinion and it might either fail to detect malware or mistakenly report a safe file as malware. With VirusTotal the file was tested before it was downloaded and with 60+ products.
If you have any doubt about a download, check it out!