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What an SSL Certificate is (and why it’s important to have one)

by: Joanne Smith

on: 14th March, 2017

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We’ve all been shopping on the internet and like to know that the site we are using and giving our personal information to is secure; but do you know what makes it secure?

If you have a business of your own, with an eCommerce website then you will already have an SSL certificate installed on it. Most likely your website designer and developer, will have explained that having an SSL certificate is necessary, but do you know what it actually is?

Are you shaking your head well don’t worry I didn’t know until recently and found out just how important it is! Read on.

What is an SSL Certificate?

In this instance SSL means Secure Socket Layer, its purpose is to provide a secure connection between an internet browser and a website in order to transmit sensitive data online.

Perhaps you’ve noticed when you’ve been shopping online that the website you are visiting has a URL address that start https rather than http with a little padlock symbol by the URL.
ssl-url-display-for-different-browsers

How SSL works

Put simply, when someone navigates to a website that is SSL secured, their browser will send a request to the website server to identify itself.

The server will reply to the browser with its SSL certificate, which the browser will authenticate to see if it trusts it.

If everything checks out, the browser will tell the server that all is good, and the server will send back an acknowledgement to start an SSL encrypted session, so all data shared between the browser and server will be secure.

This all takes place in a fraction of a second.

Why you need an SSL Certificate

This seemingly small addition, makes a lot of difference, having this Secure Socket Layer means that the website and the data transmitted from it, is encrypted to keep it secure, therefore, you can browse with confidence. It’s a bit like having a set of burly security men on the entrance and exit doors of your website.

burly-security-guard-protecting-your-websiteImage source: http://www.michellehenry.fr/job.htm

How it helps your search engine rankings

It can also help improve your search engine rankings; back in 2014, Google announced they were committed to a more secure web, saying they wanted to see ‘HTTPS everywhere’, saying they were making this part of the ranking algorithm.

It’s only a small ranking signal, but all things being equal, it could be what clinches you that position above your competitors, and as they say, every little helps.

Google has also said as of January 2017, that Chrome will be labelling websites that take sensitive information without SSL, as ‘non-secure’ (just as they label websites with it as secure).

google-chrome-https-secure-indicator Source: https://security.googleblog.com/2016/09/moving-towards-more-secure-web.html

This means when someone lands on your website, the ‘non-secure’ label could put them off, causing them to go elsewhere.

It’s worth noting that Chrome currently has an estimated market share of over 50%, so it’s likely your a number of your website visitors will have see notification.

If you have Google Analytics installed and want to check what browsers your visitors use, you can. If you log in and navigate to Audience > Technology > Browser & OS.

Here you’ll see what browsers people use when navigating your website.

At this time it’s only Google Chrome that will implement this notification, but there’s nothing to say that other web browsers might not follow suit and add a similar notice.

You might think that if you’re not an eCommerce business or don’t take any sensitive information on your website that this does’t affect you, but you might want to think again.

Google has said that going forward, they plan to mark all HTTP, non SSL pages (regardless of if they take sensitive information or not), with the non-secure label and will change the non-secure notice to look like this.

future non ssl secured warning

Source: https://security.googleblog.com/2016/09/moving-towards-more-secure-web.html

Not so subtle is it?

It’s worth getting your website SSL secured sooner, rather than later.

How to get an SSL Certificate

In order to set this up, you will need to purchase an SSL certificate and get this installed on your website. If you don’t feel confident in doing this yourself, it’s usually best to get someone with the professional ‘knowhow’ to  – probably the people who are hosting your website. (There is usually a small charge for the certificate and its installation).

SSL certificates can be purchased from a number of places but, if you decide to do this yourself, please beware of buying from a free source, as not all free certificates are recognised by web browsers and the happy shopper just about to purchase from your website may suddenly be confronted by a frightening warning message, at which point most shoppers would back hastily from your site and buy elsewhere.

ssl-certificate-maybe-check-elsewhere

Image Source: http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/news/article-2656959/Shoppers-14-days-change-minds-return-goods-bought-online-new-consumer-rights-law-comes-force.html

Better to be safe than sorry and if you are unsure then why not speak to your website hosting people and they will be very happy to help you. At isev, we encourage website security and safety, ensuring all our customers are as secure as possible. Why not get in contact with us, we are a friendly bunch 🙂

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