Modern browsers like Firefox, Google Chrome, and Safari can protect you from malicious websites by stopping you before you open a potentially harmful page. Developers build some security right into the web browser by maintaining and constantly updating lists of blacklisted websites.
Chrome's Safe Browsing feature is a great example. Using Google's web indexing power, Chrome checks every site you visit to see if it's been flagged for malware or phishing scams, and if you click on a suspect site, it takes you to a warning window before it takes you to the page itself [source: Provos]. You can still choose to visit the site, but if you're visiting a new-to-you download site and you get Chrome's red warning window, you're better off staying away.
If you're a Firefox, Chrome, Internet Explorer, Safari, or Opera user, you can also download a free plugin or extension called Web of Trust (WOT). This plugin integrates with your search engine results to tell you if a site is safe to visit. It ranks sites using a traffic light system: green for safe, yellow if they aren't sure, and red if the site is dangerous. The colored icons appear right on your page of search results, so you'll know which sites -- download sites included -- you can and can't trust at a glance.
The trouble with malicious sites is that new ones pop up all the time, so it's important to keep your browser up to date. When you update your browser, you're not just getting new features. You're also updating that list of dangerous websites.