Have you ever seen a padlock icon displayed in the address bar of your web browser and wondered, “Hey, what’s that all about and how, exactly, did it get there?” You may have noticed, too, that web browsers displaying a padlock icon also happen to have the acronym HTTPS in the URLs that show in the address bar, like so:

 

 

 

The ‘S’ you see at the end of HTTPS stands for ‘Secure’, meaning that all communications between your browser and the website are encrypted. One of the secure protocols generally used by HTTPS pages to encrypt communications is SSL.

But what is SSL and why is it so important?

According to SSL.com, SSL (or Secure Sockets Layer) is “the standard security technology for establishing an encrypted link between a web server and a browser.”

“This link ensures that all data passed between the web server and browsers remain private and integral. SSL is an industry standard and is used by millions of websites in the protection of their online transactions with their customers.”

 

Source: SSL.com

As explained by SSL Shopper, SSL plays an essential role in protecting your website, providing privacy, security, and data integrity for both your website and the personal information of your users (which is still important even if your website doesn’t handle sensitive information like credit cards numbers).

To Create An SSL Connection You’ll Need An SSL Certificate

When you activate SSL on your web server, you will be asked questions about the identity of your website and your company. The web server will then create two cryptographic keys, including a Private Key and a Public Key.

The Public Key (which doesn’t require secrecy) will be placed in a CSR or Certificate Signing Request. This is a data file containing your details which you will need to submit for the SSL Certificate application process. The Certification Authority will then validate your website and company details and issue an SSL Certificate allowing you to use SSL. After your web server matches your new SSL Certificate to your Private Key, it will be able to create an encrypted link between your website and your customer’s browser.

In addition to your domain name and company information, your SSL certificate will contain the expiration date of the Certificate and details of the Certification Authority responsible for its issuance. When a browser connects to a secure site, it retrieves the site’s SSL Certificate to ensure that it’s not expired, that it has been issued by a trusted Certification Authority, and that it is being used by the website for which it was intended. If the SSL Certificate fails any of these checks, the browser displays a warning to inform the user that it is not SSL secured.

If you plan to accept credit cards on your website, you’ll be required to pass certain audits to demonstrate that you’re complying with the Payment Card Industry (PCI) standards. One of those requirements is using an SSL Certificate.

SSL Ensures Authentication

In addition to providing encryption, SSL certificates ensure authentication. Why is this important? It means that like you, other users can have peace of mind knowing that they’re sending information to the right server and not to an imposter who is trying to steal their personal information.

Due to the nature of the Internet, your customers could potentially be sending information through several computers. Unfortunately, any of those computers could trick your users into sending personal information to them by pretending to be your website.  Using a proper Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) and SSL Certificate from a trusted provider is the only way to prevent this from happening.

SSL Establishes Trust

Trusted SSL providers only issue SSL certificates to verified companies that have passed several identity checks. To find a trusted SSL provider, you can use the SSL Wizard by SSL Shopper to compare SSL providers that are recognized in most web browsers.

According to SSL Shopper, web browser manufacturers will verify that SSL providers are in compliance with required security practices and have been audited by a third-party using programs such as WebTrust, which was developed to increase consumer confidence in the Internet and eCommerce.

Web browsers provide users with visual cues (such as a lock icon) to inform them when their connection is secured. Using an SSL certificate means that users will be more likely to trust your website and buy from you when they see these security icons. Another way to instill confidence in consumers is to display a trust seal which you can get from your SSL provider.

SSL Certificates also protect against phishing attacks (emails sent by criminals who try to impersonate your website). Because it is very difficult for cyber criminals to receive a proper SSL certificate, they won’t be able to fully impersonate your website. This means that your users will be far less likely to fall for a phishing attack because they will be looking for the trust indicators in their browser (such as a padlock icon or green address bar), but they won’t see one.

Conclusion

HTTPS connections ensure that all communications are securely encrypted. You can obtain a secure connection for your website with an SSL Certificate. The importance of using official SSL certificates can not be underestimated when you consider the following benefits:

  • Your customer’s sensitive information (credit card numbers, etc.) will be protected
  • Your website visitors can authenticate your business and domain name
  • Visitors and customers are more likely to trust you when they know you have a secure connection

SSL certificates protect you and your customers, helping you build relationships of trust that will encourage consumers to buy from you and contribute to your online success.

About Author

Sherene Funk

Sherene Funk is a voracious reader who owns more books than she can ever read in this lifetime (but that doesn't stop her from collecting more). A graduate of Brigham Young University, she has published several humorous non-fiction articles and worked in advertising for many years before moving to her current position as a writer on modern retailing at Rain Retail Software.

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