If you’re a web developer, you need to be up to speed with SSL certificates and their role in keeping websites secure. Our guide will get you up to speed fast.
What is an SSL certificate?
Ever gone onto a website recently and seen a ‘not secure’ alert flash up in the address bar? This is Google’s way of telling you that the website hasn’t been secured with an SSL certificate. But what exactly is it? SSL stands for ‘Secure Sockets Layer’. It explains to customers that your website is safe for browsing, purchasing and registering because their data is safe to share.
You’ll know that the SSL is in place because the URL begins with ‘HTTPS’ instead of ‘HTTP’. The S explains that the website has been secured with an extra layer of protection for the exchange of sensitive data. You’ll usually also see a green padlock in the URL bar. It’s a Trustmark for customers and one that inspires confidence in users.
What does an SSL certificate do?
Essentially, the SSL provides a safe and secure connection between an online user and a website – showing the user that they can safely carry out the functions provided by the website. The SSL certificate provides an encrypted connection between your server and the user’s own internet browser. This ‘handshake’ delivers a secure session, without any interruption to the browsing or purchasing activity online.
Data integrity is maintained during transfer and a digital key is automatically applied to unscramble the encrypted messages. Everything happens in the background without any impact on user experience
Why should your website have an SSL certificate?
The fact is, cybersecurity is now a constant threat. Even the smallest websites are potentially at risk of being hacked, especially as many viruses are simply automated rather than delivered by humans. Remember, web ‘bugs’ of all kinds aren’t interested in the size, function, purpose or value of your website. They simply want to seek out its vulnerabilities and exploit them.
Google now flags up ‘insecure’ websites as part of its latest Chrome update rollout. This is an instant flag to your users and customers that your website doesn’t meet current security standards. If your website processes user data and/or handles payments, then it’s absolutely integral to have an SSL certificate in place.
In more detail, the reasons to get your SSL in place include:
This is vital, as people care greatly about the privacy of their data. Even customers who are not particularly interested in the ins and outs of digital security will recognize the SSL certificate logo and understand its value. There are other security measures too that you can implement to help your users to safeguard their personal information.
One of the most effective ways of remaining safe and anonymous online is with a VPN. There are a large number of VPN providers on the market, some of which are free and others of which offer fee-paying services. By providing a safe digital ‘tunnel’ through which encrypted data can pass, user data is kept safe from hackers, snoopers and spies. See the PureVPN review to get an example of a VPN service that we rate.
Secure data transfer
Web forms, password fields, and payments all require data transfers. The internet is rife with bots and cybercriminals who want to get their hands on this data. The SSL works in the background to prevent this from happening. Remember that in many cases, you could find yourself liable to be fined or even sued if your customer data ends up in the wrong hands. At the very least, your reputation is likely to take a dive. Your business might never even recover at all.
Search engines will naturally rank secure websites more highly than unsecured ones, as they want to offer their customers the best possible results and user experience as part of their own business model.
If you are handling credit card payments or plan to introduce this into your website, then you’ll find that most merchants require you to have an SSL certificate in place. Some web hosting companies expect the same. Without the certificate in place, your customers could have their secure payment details stolen.
If any of your website pages have password protection (e.g. if you have a WordPress site or similar database-driven website with an administrator log-i or a membership site with a range of logins), then hackers have more opportunities to try to get into it. With the SSL, your website is secure from bots that want to crack password pages. Without the SSL in place, you run the risk of logging on to find a deleted or defaced page; and your reputation damaged as a result.
Get your SSL certificate in place!
There are four types of Secure Socket Layer certificates available, – the Wildcard, the Extended Validation, Organization Validation and the Multi-Domain SAN. Each has its own features and benefits and is easy to install.
Don’t be one of the 30% of small business websites that don’t take the time to safeguard their site. Research by GoDaddy found that 43% of customers will abandon a site if a security warning pops up. So, simply purchase attach the relevant SSL certificate to the website you administer and get the benefits in place immediately.