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What is an SSL certificate? Does my website need one?
06 April 2017

You’re going to hear a lot more about making your site safe for visitors in 2017. So, a little (light) introduction about what, when and how may help.

The “key” to it all is the padlock.

When you visit an online shop, you will see a padlock symbol appear in the address bar - or you should do!

This means that the connection between your visitor’s PC (or whatever device they use) and your website has been encrypted so that no one can “overhear” the conversation. This means that miscreants (love that old word) can’t grab the credit card number, etc.

This is called the “SSL Certificate”. It is usually created by the company hosting your website and then counter signed by one of the Internationally recognised and trusted “signing” authorities; including Microsoft, Symantec, Thawte, Versign and a few more - names you may already know and trust. The “signing” authorities are confirming that you are the owner of the site and that it is a genuine site.

Now, the PC is probably safeguarded by the visitor's own virus checker etc., your website is protected by the hosting company, and now with the link connecting the two are safeguarded.

What are the benefits?

1. Safe Site

The original aim was to encrypt the connection and confirm the site ownership for the visitor to trust a payment transaction.

2. Personal Data

The use then expanded to include sites and pages where you may be entering personal or sensitive data. Again, stopping miscreants from “over hearing” the data flow.

3. Google Search

Now Google want to push more sites to use these SSL connections to make the Internet safer all round. So they have now started to give prominence in search results to sites with an SSL certificate. Sound reasoning, we think.

4. Google Chrome

As part of their efforts they have also introduced changes to their browser application, Chrome, such that it flags up in the address bar when a site is secure, not secure or even a potential problem.

If your site is asking for someone to login, for example, and a page that is not covered by the SSL connection, Chrome will strongly warn the visitor to be careful.

5. Improves performance

On the most up to date hosting the SSL connection is such that it can deliver the web page to the visitor quite a bit faster. Older hosting generally can’t take advantage of this.

Sum up

So, SSL encrypts the connection between PC and website. It does NOT encrypt the website (that would make it un-readable). It does NOT encrypt the website code (that would slow the site down). It DOES bring lots of benefits;

  • SSL provides visitor trust and confidence
  • SSL provides authentication
  • SSL encrypts sensitive information
  • Necessary for accepting payments
  • Offers added brand power
  • Helps guards against phishing
  • Boosts website ranking in Google

What’s involved?

Get hold of your website hosting company or the one that built your site and tell them you need an SSL certificate. There will be some options in strength of encryption and the type of checks - hence trust levels from those “in the know”.

Or maybe we can help contact@free-rein.net or call +44 (0) 1473 81002

There will probably be a cost for the initial creation and set up, and then an annual charge for the signing by the SSL authority.

If this has given you a thirst for more detail on SSL certificates and the technology, keep an eye out for our second blog here (from someone who knows what he is talking about…).

Also watch out for our blog about WordPress vulnerabilities and the (rapidly) increasing threat to them - again "we have a cunning plan" ;-)

 

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Don't be shy - let us know if we can help! Call 01473 810002 or email contact@free-rein.net to get in touch.