Whether you’re running a website for the company you work for or you’re interested in building your site, you should think of website security the same way that you would think of security for your home.
Prioritizing website security not only keeps your personal information safe, but it also protects the people who are visiting your website. By understanding the potential risks that you have without using an SSL certificate, you’ll be able to learn how to fully protect your website.
The fast-paced world of technology can make it difficult to stay on top of the latest advancement in internet safety. If you’re wondering ‘what exactly is an SSL certificate’ and ‘why do I need an SSL certificate’, keep reading to have all of your SSL questions answered.
What Is an SSL Certificate?
An SSL certificate is a small, digital piece of coding that acts for two specific functions. These functions are for:
- Authentication and verification
- Data encryption
An SSL certificate holds information about the authenticity of specific information, such as the identity of the person (or business) that is displayed to the people that visit your website. The criteria that are used for vetting by certificate authorities to determine if an SSL certificate should be provided to ba company is stringent with an EV SSL (Extended Validation), which makes an SSL certificate the most trusted form of certificates currently available.
Also, an SSL certificate enables encryption. This means that any private or sensitive information that’s exchanged on a website can’t be read or intercepted by anyone else on the Internet, only by the intended recipient.
Think of an SSL certified the same way that you would think of an identity document, such as a driver’s license or a passport. Only government officials can issue an identity document, in the same way, that SSL certificates can only be issued by a trusted Certificate Authority.
The Certificate Authority has to follow strict policies and rules when it comes to determining if a website can be authorized an SSL certificate. When you receive an SSL certificate from a Certificate Authority, it means that your website can be trusted by your clients and visitors.
Why Do I Need an SSL Certificate?
No matter what type of website you’re running, having an SSL certificate is extremely important. If you’re not sure why you need an SSL certificate, here are a few of the benefits that having one can offer:
Google has stated that HTTPS is one of the contributing factors for your site’s SEO rankings. Adding an SSL certificate to your site actually has an impact on how your website ranks on SERPS (Search Engine Results Pages).
If you’re looking to improve the branding of your website, building trust and credibility across your customers is easily done by enabling an SSL certificate. Using an SSL certificate lets your customers know that you’re providing them with security by being able to guarantee risk-free transactions. As an end result, more customers will feel comfortable providing you with business.
Required for PCI Compliance
In order to accept any type of credit card information on your company’s website, your site has to be able to pass specific audits. These audits will determine if you’re complying with the PCI (Payment Card Industry) standards. Part of the requirements for you to pass an audit is that you’re properly using an SSL certificate.
Secure All Web Forms
Even if your website doesn’t collect any sort of payment information online, your site likely collects information. Whether that information is email addresses, birthdays, phone numbers, or leads for potential customers, you want to make sure you keep your visitor’s information safe.
If your website doesn’t have an SSL certificate, some of the information that your visitors fill out on your website can be intercepted by other outside sources.
Not interested in having your client’s information hacked off of your website? Just as you wouldn’t be interested in buying off of a website that can’t protect your private information, don’t give a visitor this reason to not do business with your company.
Installing an SSL certificate will protect your customer’s information from being leaked off of your site.
How Does an SSL Certificate Work?
Just like you lock the doors to your home, SSL encryption uses digital keys to unlock and lock your information. If you don’t have the right digital key to a website, you won’t be able to unlock the information that’s on the site.
Each SSL session has two keys, which consist of:
- A public key that’s used to scramble (encrypt) information
- The private key which is used to de-scramble (decrypt) information that’s sent to your site, which will restore it to a regular format to allow the information to be read
Each SSL certificate that’s issued by the Certificate Authority is made especially for each website domain and a specific serve. That means that when a visitor uses their Interne browser to find the address of a website that has an SSL certificate, there’s a greeting that occurs between the server and the browser.
Information is then requested from ther server, which is made visible to the person visiting your website on the window that they’re using. There will be signs that show that there’s a secure session in process, such as a trust mark.
If the visitor clicks on this trust mark, they’ll see additional information, like the validity period for the SSL certificate, the type of SSL certificate that’s being used, or who the Certificate Authority is that issued the site’s SSL certificate. This means that during the session that the visitor is on your website, there’s an established secure session that has its own unique key.
Different Types of SSL Certificates
There isn’t just one type of SSL certificate that you can enable on your website or blog. There are a variety of SSL certificates available on the market today, including:
- A Domain Validated certification, which is considered be an entry-level SSL certificate, as it’s issued in little time. The only type of verification check that’s performed is to make sure that the person applying for the SSL certificate actually owns the website domain that they’re attempting to secure. There aren’t any additional hecks completed to ensure that the business is valid.
- An SSL certificate that’s fully authenticated has to go through several steps, to be able to truly secure their website and build confidence among their customers. While this type of SSL certificate does take longer to receive, as it has to pass through several types of validation checks to confirm that the business is legitimate. Some of the things that are checked are the ownership of the domain, the applicant’s authority to apply for an SSL certificate, and the existence of the company.
- A self-signed SSL certificate is generated internally and isn’t sent out by the Certificate Authority. The owner of the website creates their own certificate, which doesn’t hold any weight compared to a fully authenticated SSL certificate or a verified SSL certificate that’s been issued by the Certificate Authority.
- Extended Validation SSL certificates are an upgraded version from a domain that validated the certification. This type of SSL certificate offers a green text and a padlock icon and is the most commonly used on eCommerce sites.
Where Should You Use an SSL Certificate?
Are you not sure if your blog or website should use an SSL certificate? Enabling an SSL certificate should be used anywhere that you’re interested in ensuring information is secure. Some of the places that you may want to consider using an SSL certificate are:
- Securing information between internal and external servers
- Securing information that was received and sent on mobile devices
- Securing any communication between your visitor’s Internet browser and your website
- Securing internal information and communications on your business’ intranet
- Securing information and communications that were received and set from your private email address or network
Getting an SSL Certificate
Now that we’ve answered the question ‘why do I need an SSL certificate’, you should have a better understanding of how an SSL certificate protects both your website and the people who are visiting your site.
We highly recommend enabling an SSL certificate on your website or blog. As long as your site is collecting private or personal information from the people who are visiting your site, it’s absolutely essential to get an SSL certificate.
Are you looking for help installing an SSL certificate or with any other web design needs? Click here to contact us today!