What the H*ll is SSL?

The Internet. Is there anything so simultaneously wonderful and terrifying? You can get your hands on just about any piece of information you might ever want to know…but so can anyone else. And the thing just keeps growing and growing. As the Internet expands and evolves, it can become a dangerous place for users. All sorts of new hidey holes open up for hackers to lie in wait for unsuspecting victims.

For those of us who are not well-versed in the world of technology, cybersecurity can feel like a daunting topic. You may wonder how you’re supposed to protect your website from those bad guys who definitely know a lot more about computers and code and cryptology than you do. Fear not, because there is an easy way to make your website a lot safer. It’s called an SSL certificate.

What is SSL?

Have you ever visited a website, checked the website bar and the top, and seen a little padlock symbol? And the string of characters before the website title said “https” instead of the regular “http”? If you haven’t, just check the bar right now on our website. If you see these signs, it means that the website you’re on has an SSL certificate.

SSL is a way of securing the connection between two devices, typically the web browser and the webserver. It originally stood for Secure Sockets Layer, when it was the most prevalent method for securing connections over the internet, but it was later surpassed by Transport Layer Security. Despite most websites using TLS, the term SSL just stuck, so now when we say SSL we are referring to Transport Layer Security. That’s a lot of jargon, but all you really need to know is both technologies essentially serve the same purpose: to protect your data.

SSL basically ensures the information you want to keep safe is kept safe and the information you are sharing is shared with the right people and the right places. Generally, it is “used to secure credit card transactions, data transfer, and logins, and more recently is becoming the norm when browsing social media sites” (GlobalSign). Sounds like what we want, right?

How do you get SSL on your websites?

To keep all of your private information intact (and the information of your website’s patrons), you have to purchase an SSL certificate. By buying one of these certificates, you are basically buying small data files that protect your information with a cryptographic key. This key is actually a two-in-one deal, as you get a public key and a private key. The public key is public domain and can encrypt data being sent; however, the data can only be decrypted by the receiver’s private key. This prevents the information from being decrypted if it is intercepted before it is unlocked by the private key. These kinds of transmissions occur all the time between the web browser and webserver when people visit your website, and it is vital to protect their information and yours.

Why do you need an SSL certificate, and what’s the deal with Google and SSL?

Obviously, it’s important for people to peruse your website without fear that their private information could be stolen or they’ll get a virus, but this is not the only reason getting an SSL certificate is a good idea.

In 2017, Google started flagging unencrypted websites (sites that have any kind of text input but don’t have an SSL certificate). This means the website bar will show a red warning that says “Not Secured.” This is not very reassuring for the people visiting your lovely website that you have spent so much time and money on.

And it’s all even more timely because, as of this month, Google has amped up enforcing these warnings, going so far as to block unsecured pages for anyone using the Chrome browser (which accounts for more than 50% of Internet browsers worldwide). They have introduced a toggle for users to unblock the unsecure content, but when faced with that option, most people get freaked out enough that they’ll just forgo visiting your site altogether (I mean, wouldn’t you?). And in January 2020, they’ll remove the toggle option completely.

In addition, having your site flagged as unsecure hurts your Google ranking. In an effort to look out for the people using their search engine, Google pushes websites without SSL protection further down in the search results, making it harder for people to find your website. This means potentially missing out on customers who would otherwise help drive your business. So, the boost in Google ranking you will get when you buy an SSL certificate is well worth the cost.

Where do you get an SSL certificate?

To receive an SSL certificate, you can contact your web host directly to purchase one and have it installed, or Sleeping Giant Creative would be happy to take care of it for you.

Purchasing an SSL certificate is easy and will benefit your website in such an integral way. It protects you and your customer’s information, makes people feel safer, and directs more people to your website. A winning situation, all ‘round.

Feel free to reach out if you have any questions about how SSL certificates work or would like our help purchasing one. It’s not as scary as it seems, we promise, and we’re here to make the experience that much more comfortable and painless!

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