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What the hell is SSL?!

What the hell is SSL?!

How SSL certificates protect personal information, and the Google update taking website security to new heights.

“There is a problem with this website’s security certificate.”

“The security certificate presented by this website was not issued by a trusted certificate authority.”

We’ve all seen the message. And we’ve all stared at the screen with a confused ‘Huh?’ thinking what in the {insert expletive here} is a ‘trusted certificate authority?’

 

Well, we’ve got good news: once you finish this article, you’ll know exactly what an SSL certificate is; plus, its importance to both browsers and site owners, given Google’s recent update.

 

What is SSL?

SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer, and it’s what protects your personal information as you browse the internet.

 

If you fill out a sign-up form, provide payment information, or type just about anything into a website, you want to know there’s an SSL layer to guarantee your security.

 

So, websites purchase an SSL certificate to add this layer of trust, leaving you to enter your credit card number, security number, password, anything, without the risk of others being able to see – or steal – it.

 

But How Does SSL Protect Information?

The Secure Sockets Layer establishes an encrypted connection, separating the user’s browser from the web server.

 

When you navigate to an SSL-protected site, the browser and the web server follow a protocol to establish a secure session; so, you can browse, safe in the knowledge, your personal information is safe.

 

In essence, every time you pass information from your computer to the website, SSL provides the lock-and-key to keep your data safe from prying eyes.

 

Which Websites Need an SSL Certificate?

If you are ever asked to enter any personal information, the website 100% needs SSL protection. So, for:

 

  • Names
  • Addresses
  • Credit card details
  • Sensitive data

 

Never enter any of them – or anything you wouldn’t share with a stranger – unless you know the site has a valid SSL certificate.

 

Websites used to get away without a certificate unless they actively collected visitor information – but times have moved on. In 2018, Google felt the need for change, providing a timely update to your web security.

 

Google’s 2018 SSL Update

SSL has always been integral to Google; but in 2018, the search giant added the security requirement as a parameter to its search ranking algorithm. Moreover, Google stipulated that every site – be it a blog, eCommerce, payments provider, you name it – needs to have a certificate.

 

Plus, as of July, any website without a valid SSL certificate will be marked as ‘not secure.’

 

So, those insecure sites lacking protection will not only rank lower in search results, but they will also be flagged as risky; great news for security-conscious browsers (hopefully us all), and a reminder to websites to upgrade if you want to preserve your search engine visibility.

 

How Can You Tell If a Site IS Secure?

Your browser should make this as simple as possible with several visual cues telling you “this site is secure”:

 

  1. A visible Padlock icon somewhere near the URL
  2. HTTP vs. HTTPS – with the ‘s’ meaning the site is secure
  • A green address bar or a security seal confirming SSL protection

 

If a site doesn’t have a valid SSL certificate, you should land on a notice page before arriving at the site with a written warning as shown at the start of this article.

 

If you see it, heed the security flag and do not enter personal information on this website.

 

Or, better yet, browse elsewhere.

 

I Have a Website – What Should I Do?

If you own a site, the first thing to do is learn about the types of SSL certificate you can buy. They offer different levels of protection, appropriate for different operations.

 

Once you understand what you need, purchase a certificate to secure your site so that you continue to rank well in Google search – and so customers can have faith in your website.

 

Voilà – you’re an SSL expert.

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