What Is an SSL Certificate?
A (Secure Sockets Layer) SSL certificate encrypts the data that users provide or receive on your website. This includes any type of input field that might appear on your website such as a search bar, login credentials, credit card and payment information, address, phone number or any other kind of personal information.
With all the concerns over identity theft and cyber hacking these days, SSL certificates are quickly becoming the name of the game.
Here’s how to know if your website has been hacked.
How does an SSL Certificate work?
Let’s break this down a little further, so you understand how an SSL certificate is used and implemented. Normally, when a user clicks on your website, their web browser tries to connect to your site’s HTTP address.
Without an SSL certificate, any information or data that’s created when the user interacts with your website is transmitted over the Internet via a plain text file, which means anyone can read or access that information if they know where to look.
So, if one of your users is typing in their home address and credit card information on your eCommerce store, all that data could be used by a third-party for malicious purposes such as stealing your customer’s identity.
What happens when there isn’t an SSL Certificate?
- When the user clicks on your website, their web browser connects to your website’s HTTPS address (a normal HTTP address + an SSL certificate). The web browser will ask your website to identify itself using the SSL certificate.
- In response, your website will send the web browser what’s known as its public key, one of the main components of an SSL certificate.
- Then, the web browser will validate your site’s public key using a list of trusted Certificate Authorities (CAs) or SSL certificate issuers. This step ensures that your site’s public key is still valid and unexpired, and that it was issued by a CA that’s been thoroughly vetted by the web browser using a series of security and safety standards.
- Once the web browser has verified your site’s SSL certificate, it creates an encrypted session key and sends it back to your website.
- Your website will then decrypt the session key using its private key, another key component of an SSL certificate, and send a verification message back to the web browser.
- Now, both the web browser and your website can interact using the encrypted session key while the user is logged onto your website. This encrypts the user’s entire session, which means that any data that’s sent or received during the session will be encrypted.
As complicated as this process might seem, it’s important to remember that this exchange between your website and the web browser is instantaneous and completely invisible to the user.
Some website owners worry that having an SSL certificate in place will disrupt their relationship with unsecured ad content and other third-party pages, but these concerns are largely moot. As Google continues to promote SSL certificates and encourage web publishers to implement them, more ads are becoming SSL compatible, so you shouldn’t be worried about an SSL certificate hurting your ad revenue.
How an SSL Certificate Helps Your Website
As a website owner, it’s your job to provide your users with a safe, reliable space where they can interact with your website. Just like you might install a security camera or hire a security guard to prevent theft or shoplifting in a physical store, an SSL certificate makes your website a safer place for everyone.
Once you’ve installed your SSL certificate, your users will see a lock symbol or a green bar when they visit your website. This lets them know that your website is a trusted, reputable organization. It also tells your users that you value their safety and digital privacy.
If a user doesn’t see the lock symbol or the green bar on your website, there’s a good chance that they will take their business elsewhere. Buying a new pair of shoes is not worth the stress that comes with handing over personal information to an unsecure website. Thus, register for an SSL certificate and your customers will reward you.
How to Install an SSL Certificate for Google
If you’re ready to convert your website to HTTPS with an SSL certificate, you need to find a reliable Certificate Authority or SSL certificate issuer. You can compare some of the most popular CAs at SSL Shopper.
When you sign up for an SSL certificate, you’ll receive a series of data files, a certificate that verifies your SSL and a public and private key that corresponds with your website’s domain name and IP address. Send these files to your web host to have the SSL certificate implemented on your site.
Switch your website’s domain name from “http://” to “https://”. You should be able to adjust your domain name using your web host dashboard or under the “General Settings” menu option. Okay, you’re almost done. But, there are still dozens of inbound links on your website that will be listed as HTTP. You’ll have to manually change every link using View Source.
This allows you to view the HTML file for your website. Every link you see needs to be changed to HTTPS. Depending on how large your website is, this may take anywhere from a few minutes to a few days.
Why Google Wants You to Have an SSL Certificate
Google doesn’t want you to jump through all these extra hoops for nothing. It simply wants to protect the information that its users send and receive online. Can you blame them? That’s why Google announced that it would start penalizing websites without an SSL certificate by knocking them down in their users’ search results. If your website is competing against a number of other websites for a top spot in Google’s search rankings, Google is going to favor the safer, more reliable site – i.e., the one that’s been verified using an SSL certificate.
According to Let’s Encrypt, a provider of SSL certificates, the amount of encrypted online traffic finally surpassed the 50% threshold in January 2017, which means that more than half of all websites surveyed in the study now have an SSL certificate in place. This trend isn’t expected to slow down anytime soon. As Internet security becomes a more pressing issue and Google integrates HTTPS considerations into its algorithms, we’ll see more websites make the switch to HTTPS. So, if you can’t beat them, join them.
The Dangers of Going without an SSL Certificate
Even if your users aren’t sending or receiving data on your website, that means no input fields, purchases, passwords, site search queries, Google still expects your website to have an SSL certificate. Yes, complain all you want, but it’s Google’s way or the highway. If you want your website to have a high search ranking in 2018, you need to get an SSL certificate regardless of your target audience or what kind of content you’re hosting on your site.
Maybe you’re not worried about where your website ranks in Google’s search results. If that’s the case, you still need to get an SSL certificate. Starting in 2018, Google Chrome will start flagging websites that aren’t HTTPS.
Website visitors will be warned
When a user tries to click on your site using Chrome, they will see the words “Not Secure” in the search bar and a message that says, “Your connection is not private. Attackers might be trying to steal your information from www.yourdomainname.com (for example, passwords, messages, or credit cards).” Not exactly a warm welcome for your users. Even if your users still want to access your site despite the grave warning from Google, they’ll have to click on the “Advanced” tab and click “Proceed Anyway.”
You’re asking your users to take on unnecessary risks just to access your site. Even if you believe that your website is secure, your users will be hesitant, at best, when clicking on your site.
These changes started back in January 2017 when Google announced that it would begin flagging unsecure websites, websites that don’t use SSL certificates, that collect payment information or passwords. But, as Malwarebytes reports, Google will start flagging all unsecure websites, regardless of whether users are sending or receiving data on the site.
With these considerations in mind, it’s time to start revamping your website.
SSL certificates aren’t going anywhere as Google begins punishing unsecure websites. In order to avoid a major drop-off in web traffic, sign up for an SSL certificate for Google sooner rather than later. You’ll need some time to work out all the kinks, but you should have a fully optimized secure HTTPS website in a few days.
Your customers will be thrilled to see the secure lock symbol every time they log on to your site, giving them peace of mind that their confidential information stays confidential. Protect your users from identity theft and sign up for an SSL certificate today.