What’s SSL certificate and why do you actually need it?

WhileChallenges facing web users

In this age of digital innovation, it is now easier and more convenient for customers to do business online. While this has a lot of advantages, the downside is that security becomes a major issue. Hackers have developed unscrupulous ways of scamming customers and stealing their personal data and information. Any customer will think twice before entering their credit card details in a particular website. Maybe they got scammed already or they are just aware of risk it may take. Many customers visiting websites will check to see if your site is secure before they can enter their personal information. If you are a website owner, you obviously know what’s SSL certificate, don’t you? Read on to see what it is and how it can be beneficial for your website.

What’s SSL Certificate?

The idea of using SSL (Secure Socket Layer) certificates came about in 1996. The concept is to create a secure layer between the website and the end user. Further improvements were made in 1999 and the name was changed to Transport Layer Security (TLS). Although TLS is the technology we use now, the old name remains popular. It is common to see TLS and SSL used interchangeably, but this does not mean they are two different concepts. In simple terms, the SSL certificate is a data file you attach to your website that authenticates its validity. Moreover it provides encryption of data making it hard to read for prying eyes. The SSL Certification indicates authenticity of the company, as well as security for the users in terms of submitting their data.

Sites that employ this protocol have a green “https://” prefix in their URL. The prefix “http://” shows on the other hand that site does not have this certification. The “s” stands for “secure,” which means the website is using an encrypted connection. This visual sign is a way of informing your visitors that your site is safe and secure. It is one of the best ways to boost their confidence and assure them their information is safe. Many e-commerce sites and other sites that require users to login or add personal information need to have this certificate. SSL security is no longer an option to choose, but rather must-have for great majority of websites.

How SSL security works

While SSL does not hold any sensitive information such as credit card numbers, usernames or passwords, it does provide privacy and security for the website owner, and the personal information of the user. The way it keeps information private is by encrypting data. Only the one who can understand the information being sent is the intended receiver. The information sent through the internet passes from one computer or server to another, until it reaches its destination. This means that any computer in between could access the data you input on a particular site. Hackers can then use this information to steal your money or gain sensitive personal information and data. However, since SSL encrypts this information, any computer, except the intended one cannot understand the information being sent since it is unreadable. This is in contrast to an HTTP website which sends information as an open text. This means that if someone is watching your web traffic, they can grab your personal information.

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SSL will also ensure the information you are sending is authenticated. This is to prevent hackers from tricking users to send them important information. Those could be used for criminal activities such as laundering. SSL security in place identifies the website and secures the information sent.

Do I need one for my website

Cyber-crime has become a major issue for many online users. The ease with which one can now purchase things online or enter sensitive information means that your visitors are more vulnerable to hacking. This is one of the reasons why customers need to be very careful of the websites they visit. Therefore, if you are a website owner you should have an SSL certificate. Sensitive data such as the personal information and credit card numbers of your customers will be encrypted, making it hard for prying eyes to read them. You will also be assuring your customers that your website is trustworthy, and thus they can feel safe when providing their personal information. The fact that your visitors feel secure will place you at an advantage when it comes to attracting visitors. However, while it’s true that not all sites require a certificate, some sites may find it essential to have one.

If you are operating an e-commerce site, you will definitely need to have the certificate. This is because it is your duty as an online merchant to make sure the information and data you collect from your customers is secured. This is to reduce the likelihood of this information getting into the hands of the wrong people. You will also need a certificate if you collect credit card information to process it offline or charge it later manually. As well as when you use third payment party processors such as PayPal. It is also advisable to use SSL if visitors your visitors are logging to their accounts on your website. This is because without certification, hackers could easily see and misuse the usernames and passwords provided.

What are the advantages of SSL?

When thinking about SSL, one can perceive it as an indicator that your site is secure. While technological innovations are a huge welcome, especially when it enhances the way we do things, it also has its downsides. We have all heard harrowing stories of people who have lost fortunes to hackers. Hackers are now as sophisticated as ever and will prey on any weakness they can on your site. This is one of the main reasons why Google is even advocating for secured sites, and also rates them higher. This means that if you have good content, then you have a higher chance of ranking higher if you are certified than if you are not. Google also started ranking HTTP pages which collect credit card data and passwords as non-secure as from January 2017. They are doing this to make the internet more secure and are even planning to eventually label all other HTTP pages as unsecure.

Customers who have had first-hand experience or heard about the risks associated with dealing with online sites will be extra careful about the sites they visit. Therefore, imagine that you have a high quality site, but visitors go away because it is not secured? While it is true that an SSL secured site not necessarily will bring more traffic, not secured site can easily put off potential visitors. As a consequence you can loose potential income. As a website owner, you should therefore see the certificate as a mean to create trust between you and your visitors. Furthermore, increased trust means increased conversion.

What are the disadvantages of SSL?

One of the criticisms facing the principle behind SSL is that of costs. Many website owners who do not offer merchant services are put off by the costs of purchasing such certificates. Having SSL certificate will  not only make your site more secured but also will rank higher in Google. Some website owners feel that getting a certificate is overkill and thus tend to avoid it. It’s true that certificates were very expensive in the past. Nevertheless now you can obtain them at low cost from trusted authorities. You may also even find free solutions, but be careful as they offer usually much lower protection than those paid ones. While SSL certificate ensures the security of data, sometimes hackers managed to exploit it anyway. Most of those attacks are unsuccessful and the vulnerabilities present are quickly corrected to avoid issues in the future.

The case for SSL certification

Anyone making an online purchase will attest to the fact that they need a trusting environment to make sure they can feel safe about their money and information they provide. Advancements in technology mean that hackers are now finding more advanced ways to steal vital information from online users. As a website owner, it is important to ensure secured data and information for your customers. This way you built trust and show your customers that you care. Visitors are now aware and very alert of the risks associated with dealing with online sites. Thus, many of them will be looking for visual cues, such as the green bar or the lock icon, to establish whether they can feel secure when dealing with your site. Thus, if you want to attract potential visitors and attract new ones, then certification is the way to go.

On the other hand, Google is working hard to ensure a safe online environment. This is why it recently introduced secured sites as one of its criteria for rating websites. This means that even if you produce quality content, but your site is not secured, then you will not be rated favourably. Furthermore, it is also marking sites that require data from customers as “unsafe” if they do not have SSL certification. While it is true that not all sites require SSL certification, the fact that it helps in ensuring a secure online environment makes it an important feature to have.