In the wake of recurring headlines about data breaches and our online privacy being compromised, the security of our personal data is as important as ever. One recommendation we have for all our clients is to get an SSL certificate for their websites. We’ll explain why and answer some frequently asked questions along the way.
What is an SSL Certificate?
SSL stands for “Secure Sockets Layer.” It allows communication between a visitor’s web browser and your web server to be encrypted. This encryption is important for data security because it means all data exchanged between the two of you is secure, and no unauthorized third parties (hackers, identity thieves, etc.) can access it.
Think about all the sensitive information we use or access online:
- Usernames and passwords
- Financial information like credit card numbers and account numbers
- Personal information like names, addresses, birthdays and social security numbers
- Medical information
- Legal documents
- Emails and so much more
Glancing through this list, it’s pretty obvious why encryption and SSL certificates are so important.
What Does a Secure Website Look Like?
So how do you know if the website you’re using is secure? Here are a few signs to look for:
- The URL will start with https:// (instead of http://) – The “s” makes all the difference. It stands for “secure,” so if you see it, you know the site is secure and data is encrypted.
- On a secure site, a green padlock icon will be displayed to the left of the URL. With many browsers, you can even click on the padlock to see certificate details.
- Some browsers will have the name of the company or organization in green next to the green padlock while others will say “Secure” in green.
- And with some browsers, the https:// will be green.
Does Every Website Need an SSL Certificate?
It used to be that only websites that were accepting sensitive data or payment information were the ones that needed an SSL certificate, but that is not the case anymore. Now it’s becoming commonplace to have an SSL certificate, especially since Google announced they were going to use it for ranking purposes. Furthermore, websites that don’t have an SSL certificate will feature “not secure” messages and icons that could cause concern to anyone browsing your site. (This is just one of the reasons why we added an SSL certificate to JacksonSky.com.)
Google has been encouraging SSL certificates since 2014’s “HTTPS Everywhere” campaign that raised awareness about the value of an SSL certificate. In 2015, Google announced that they would favor secured sites with SSL certificates in their search rankings and down-rank unencrypted sites. In 2016, Chrome started a new warning for unencrypted login pages with “not secure” messages appearing in the window next to the address bar.
Now Google is going one step further. Effective July 2018, sites without SSL certificates will be flagged with “not secure” messages in Google Chrome. Google’s goal is 100% encryption across all their products and services. To see how they’re doing, check out this Transparency Report, which provides data on the status of HTTPS adoption and usage at Google and across the web.
How Do I Obtain an SSL Certificate Moving Forward?
There are several different SSL certificates to choose from for your site. While some are less expensive than others, some offer more protection and security than others, so be sure to investigate all your options.
The best and easiest way to get an SSL certificate is to contact your hosting provider. For clients who host their site with Jackson Sky, you can reach out to us, and we can help you quickly and easily get one installed on your site.
The Bottom Line
No one wants to compromise sensitive information, lose credibility with customers and drop in Google search rankings. For this reason, every website should have an SSL certificate, not only to encrypt sensitive data but to build customer trust and to maintain or improve their SEO.