If you put no other security measures in place, what is the first and most visible thing you can do to secure your website? While we don’t recommend stopping there, the best way to put a visitor’s mind at ease is with an SSL certificate for a website.
What is an SSL Certificate for a Website?
SSL/TLS stands for Secure Socket Layer/Transport Layer Security. In general, SSL authentication is a cryptographic protocol that validates the authenticity of a domain to request browsers. TLS is an updated version of SSL, which saw it’s the final release, SSL v3.0, in 1999.
They’re the same, but use slightly different bits of technology. Only a tech could tell you how they differ. For example, TLS doesn’t support the Fortezza cipher suite used by SSL; it favors more straightforward tech like Triple DES, AES, and IDEA. TLS isn’t the primary form of authentication as yet because it’s a little complex and less convenient for the average user than SSL, which works just fine.
For this guide, such differences are negligible, but seeing the two acronyms together all the time could lead to confusion without a brief explanation.
Suffice to say that both are endpoint encryption mechanisms that protect data-in-transit between users and systems, apps, and servers.
They work by keeping hackers from accessing data that’s being transmitted from users to servers and back again. In tech terms, this is known as an electronic handshake. It’s a way of saying, “Okay, you’re legit. Let’s do business.”
You’ll know that a website is authenticated by the little padlock icon in the browser bar and https: before the IP address.
Most reliable hosting platforms will give you an SSL certificate for a website as a perk with your plan. Otherwise, you’ll need to purchase one from a third-party and install it yourself.
You’ll also have an option to upgrade if you need more robust security. Along with basic SSL authentication, you’ll find:
Extended Validation Certificates (EV SSL)
Organization Validated Certificates (OV SSL)
Domain Validated Certificates (DV SSL)
Wildcard SSL Certificate
Multi-Domain SSL Certificate (MDC)
Unified Communications Certificate (UCC)
These are for websites with specialized security needs and businesses that want to establish a higher level of authority.
Is an SSL a Want Rather Than a Need?
Not if you want to distinguish your website from a scammer site and establish some credibility. They’re essential if you’re conducting any commerce online. Google started flagging sites without an SSL certificate for a website as of 2017.
If you’re still unsure, consider the following:
Does your website have logins or forms to secure?
Do users provide credit card and other sensitive information?
Does your website collect or store user data?
For those mavericks out there who aren’t going to do something just because Google says so, here are six more good reasons to get an SSL certificate for your website.
SSL Shows That You Put Site Security First
Encrypting data-in-transit helps prevent breaches by providing you with a second layer of protection. Used in conjunction with the public key infrastructure (PKI), it makes sure that information is transmitted to the correct server. With SSL in place, you’ll have a form of digital documentation that validates your credentials through a trusted certificate-issuing agency.
SSL has become the go-to protocol for VPN software lagging slightly behind PPTP and L2TP. While Microsoft’s original PPTP protocol was useful for many years, the growth of robust SSL protocols has increased security functionality across the board. TLS is also another manifestation of SSL encryption. A recent report by Privacy Canada explained the difference in SSL/TLS VPN encryption, “SSL is short for “Secure Socket Layer” and is commonly used on many eCommerce websites to secure the connection. Many VPNs in Canada pair this technology with TLS, or Transport Layer Security. The reason for this is that it’s an alternative to IPsec, which can come into conflict with many firewalls.”
TSL works by creating a secure connection through symmetric cryptography. In this cryptographic method, a unique key is created for each connection session.
SSL Elevates Your Position in the SERPs
You don’t often think of things like search engine page rank (SERP) in conjunction with a tech detail. However, Google’s commitment to providing users with a safe, quality surfing experience means they take everything into consideration when evaluating and ranking websites. The mere presence of https rather than HTTP in front of your web address elevates your credibility.
Install an SSL as soon as you establish a host or upgrade if you have an existing SSL certificate for a website. Most of the time, you can get one free when you sign up with a hosting company.
SSL Certificate for a Website Establishes Trust
Whether you’re a blogger or a business owner, you want visitors to your site to trust your authenticity and authority. It’s part of branding. Taking the extra step of certifying your website shows your audience that you care about the integrity of their information.
If you already have a solid business and want to give more confidence to your visitors, you can opt for one of the SSL trust certificates, because as opposed to free certificates, these provide stronger security encryption and can help you increase your conversion rates since the green bar on the browser can offer more trust.
SSL Improves Website Speed
This is another element you might not immediately connect with an SSL certificate for a website. However, this type of validation means your credentials are already established, and the requesting browser has fewer steps to undertake between first greeting and handshake. With streamlined authentication and fewer hoops to jump through, pages load faster.
SSL Certificate for a Website Protects Sensitive Data
Data leaks can ruin your reputation by causing a lack of trust and irreparable PR damage. By building the most secure website possible, all user data is encrypted and safely transported from their keyboard to your server. That helps establish trust and bolsters many other elements that search engines and potential customers use to rate websites.
SSL Improves User Experience
A huge component of SEO and lead generation/conversion is user experience (UX). With all of the news about data breaches and leaks, consumers are afraid to conduct business online. They wonder if their credit card or health insurance information will be stolen and used against them or sold to the highest bidder on the Dark Web.
Setting their minds at ease by encrypting sensitive information removes this fear and improves the user experience immeasurably. This is especially important if your website relies on credit card sales, or you store personal information like credit scores or health records.
Final Thoughts about SSL Certificate for a Website
When you’re new to the game, all of the moving parts of a site-building and operation can be confusing. We’re pleased to provide you with detailed information and rationales for implementing the technology you need to protect your business.
Now that you’ve reassured your visitors with visible proof of your commitment to security keep them and your site private and safe by installing a VPN.
Kate is a front end developer from Phoenix, Arizona with more than 10 years of professional experience. She`s been working on many projects, mostly as Software Project Manager and Developer. Find her on LinkedIn
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