Understanding why your website needs an SSL certificate

An SSL (secure sockets layer) certificate is a data file that offers an extra layer of security between a website and a browser. The SSL certificate serves to authenticate the website’s identity and to encrypt any information provided through the website. These are essential security measures to foil hackers that may want to take over the website or seize information your visitors provide during checkout or in a form. 

How an SSL certificate works

When you view a website, that site’s server and the browser you use work together to display the information. SSL is a type of encryption that takes place within the connection of those two entities. A web browser knows how to read the SSL certificate on the site to authenticate its identity. SSL encryption ensures that a third party can’t access the information shared between them.

SSL certificates contain information that helps verify the website. The specific information contained within the certificate is based on the type of SSL certificate you get. However, it often includes:

  • The website’s domain name.
  • The person or organisation the SSL certificate was issued to.
  • The certificate authority that provided it and their digital signature.
  • The date the SSL certificate was issued and the date it expires.
  • The SSL certificate’s public key, which is half of how data is encrypted and decrypted. The other half, the private key, is kept secret.

Why your website needs an SSL certificate

An SSL certificate is essential for eCommerce websites that process payments. However, it’s becoming expected for all types of websites now.

SSL certificates make your website more secure. This is particularly important if your website collects sensitive information, such as:

  • Credit card information
  • Delivery addresses
  • Private patient data
  • Logins
  • Personal information like last name, phone number, birth date, or where the person lives

Furthermore, SSL certificates help your business gain the trust of your visitors. They are likely to feel more comfortable about providing information to your brand or making a purchase through your website if you have an SSL certificate.  

Many browsers prevent users from directly accessing a website that doesn’t have a current SSL certificate. Instead, they’ll see an error message warning them that the site isn’t safe. While most of these error pages include the option to proceed to the site anyway, people are concerned about data privacy and identity theft. However, this warning message might scare visitors away before they get to your site.

An undervalued benefit of an SSL certificate is that it boosts your search engine optimisation (SEO). As a ranking factor, Google considers a secure site as reputable. It is not as significant an SEO tactic as link-building, but it’s an easy way to score points – with search engines and visitors.

Types of SSL certificates

The kind of information your visitors will be providing through your website will determine what kind of SSL certificate you should get. These three types of SSL certificates each offer a different level of security.

Domain validated (DV). DV SSL certificates verify who owns the site. These SSL certificates are affordable, easy to get and offer the lowest level of security. So if your website doesn’t ask users for any sensitive information, you can enjoy the essential benefits of an SSL with a DV certificate.

Organisationally validated (OV). For an OV SSL certificate, the certificate authority that grants the certificate will check and confirm that your organisation and domain validation are legitimate. This SSL certificate costs more, takes longer, and offers more security than a DV certificate.

Extended Validation (EV). If your website deals with sensitive data like financial information, an EV SSL certificate is the best option. To get an EV, the certificate authority performs a more comprehensive review of the business. This process takes longer, is more expensive, and offers the necessary level of security for sensitive data.

Check if a website has an SSL certificate

The easiest way to check if a website has a current SSL certificate is to look at the address bar in the browser. The two main indications are:

  • The letters HTTPS at the beginning of the URL (as opposed to just HTTP)
  • A lock icon to the left of the URL. By clicking on the lock icon, you can find out more information about the SSL certificate.

Contact Hosting24 today

For assistance in obtaining an SSL certificate for your website or to renew your SSL certificate, get in touch with Hosting24 to discuss your options.

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