DLS 101 - free tools to help you surf and download safely
Web browser toolbars
These options all work in Internet Explorer and Firefox.
McAfee SiteAdvisor and WebOfTrust (pictured) are great ways to use the "power of the crowd" to keep you safe. Both services keep tabs on the reliability, safety, and trustworthiness of websites. They'll alert you with a big red flag if something nasty is headed your way.
There's also Finjan Secure Browsing, which checks web pages for malicious code and alerts when it finds potential spyware activity on a page.
Many antivirus provider's now include a browser toolbar with their software when you purchase it, including Norton, McAfee, and AVG. They all provide a little extra protection for you while you surf.
Sure, your antivirus program scans files when they arrive, but why not check that file out before it comes anywhere near your hard drive? NoVirusThanks is a web-based service to scan files before you download them. Click "scan web address" and paste in the link to the file you want to check.
Maybe you're fairly new to bittorrent. Want to make sure you're downloading what you think you're downloading? Check out Vertor (verified torrents). You can see still images captured from that movie you were going to download, preview audio tracks, and see what files are contained in other torrents. The capture above is from Big Buck Bunny, an open, Creative Commons animated movie.
If you don't want to install a toolbar, you can still check a site's WebOfTrust ratings by visiting mywot.com and using the search box in the top-right corner of their page.
Short web links are all over the place now, especially on sites like Twitter and Facebook. Want to find out where links like http://tr.im/tzLB or http://bit.ly/DkPYG are sending you?
LongURL Please offers a Firefox add-on which supports 73 different shortening services. It'll de-scramble any links it finds on a web page so you can see exactly where you're going to end up. FF users who run the Greasemonkey add-on can also install TinyURL Decorder. Opera users can grab the LongURL userscript (which supports 208 services).
Browsing with Internet Explorer, Chrome, or Safari (or anything else)? Use the form at LongURL.org or the Long URL Please bookmarklet to check those links before you click. Not sure what a bookmarklet is? Check out Vic's DLS 101 post!