If you’ve ever shopped online or conducted any form of an online transaction, then odds are you’re one of the many beneficiaries of a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) connection. Developed as one of the mechanisms of encrypting the data you send, as it flows from one server to another, an SSL certificate is meant to protect your personal data from leaking out or getting sniffed while in transmission.
There’s no enough insisting as to why this is important, especially with the advancement of internet technology. When you think of it, you can only expect online attackers and hackers to get better at their stunts.
Ever taken a minute to think of what actually transpires behind the curtains every time you engage in a banking transaction? Basically, you log into your bank portal, follow the links provided until you get to a point where you’ll be asked to enter your banking information; starting with your name, account number, all the way to your CSV number and the rest.
There’ll be no wires linking the computer you’re using to the bank’s server. Instead, there’ll be a large network of servers and routers that essentially facilitate the communication between you and the bank. You’re basically instructing the bank on what you want them to do for you, in the hopes that there’ll be no one in-between to sniff out your interactions and rob you of your hard-earned cash in the bank.
But you can’t bank on hope. The bank is totally wised up to the possibility of getting hacked, and they have installed all the necessary security measures in place to make sure it never happens.
The first thing you do to access the bank’s official website is enter their URL. The URL will then be translated into an IP address. Your computer will then proceed to contact this address.
By typing the bank’s URL, you’re simply asking for their server’s location. So your browsers which will be serving as your network operator reaches back with an address, an IP address. You’ll be asked to log in or provide a series of other authentication details for the server to ascertain that it’s actually you, the true owner of the account, on the other end.
Once done, you can proceed and send your request to the server, and the server will respond accordingly, as instructed by you.
Pretty simple. But there’s so much involved, part of which includes protecting the information sent back and forth from getting into the wrong hands.
By understanding how this works, it becomes even easier to understand where an SSL connection comes in handy in all this. In the example we’ve just given, as the information moves from your computer to the bank’s server, back and forth, there’s a possibility a malicious user or hacker could insert their network in-between your connection with the bank’s server. And by doing this, they’ll be able to monitor your traffic – and you can only imagine what they can do with the information that lands in their hands (your name, password, credit card information, emails, and bank account).
How an SSL Certificate Fits in the Puzzle
The internet was a little bit narrowed when it was first created. Its main purpose was to facilitate the sharing of research projects and reports between government organisation, university labs and other concerned parties. Never was it intended to be used by the public.
At the time, the bulk of the transmission would occur in plain text, be it via FTP, email, and HTTP (the normal web browsing).
Online shopping would then go mainstream, prompting them to try and come up with different means to secure their networks. They had to make sure that the network that existed between you and the vendor stayed secured whenever data was being transferred. That marked the beginning of SSL adoption.
So What Exactly Makes SSL Secure?
Encryption, to start with. Think of it as entrusting the service of encrypting your data to a person you can completely trust. And to get rid of the hard task of assigning your encryption key to every user you get, a public key and private key system were devised.
In which case, users are allowed to share a public key that they want to be encrypted. Read this bearing in mind that the corresponding server will only be having one key that it will be used to decrypt your site’s traffic. And unless the attacker has the public key to the private key that encrypts your site’s data before sending it to a web browser, there’s nothing they can do to get into your network.
The only question you might be tempted to ask at this point is, “what do you think prevents an attacker or any malicious user you attract to your site from simply creating their own private key that they’ll be using to decrypt your data and directing it their way?
It’s for this reason that SSL certificates aren’t offered for free. In order to install one into your site, you have to sign up with a trusted vendor of SSL certificates. These are trusted companies that have invested heavily in the service.
Also, these companies have to comply with a set of baseline standards that will be working to verify that you’re indeed the true owner of the site that you want to encrypt.
This is further enforced by browsers and a couple of other software that will be working to ensure that the certificates you get are only issued by a predetermined list of trusted vendors.
So before the green padlock shows up on your site, the browser has to check and make sure that you’ve installed an SSL certificate that’s been issued by one of the companies on their list. In which case, the company issuing the certificate will be tasked with the role of approving if you’re the true owner of the site in question.
Of course, mistakes can be made and there’s a possibility of your private key getting stolen by malicious people thus breaching your data security. But on the overall, certificate revocations and other similar responses have been working to ensure SSL certificates stand as one of the most reliable ways to secure your network.
Why It’s Important to Install an SSL certificate to Your Site
Taking into account the competitive nature of the super-competitive business environment in Singapore, it’s safe to say there’s no way you can operate a professional online business without installing an SSL certificate to your site.
For all those that still need further convincing as to why they should consider installing an SSL certificate to their sites, here are all the important reasons they need to know:
As mentioned, you need an SSL certificate to protect the sensitive information on your website from getting into the wrong hands during its transmission from your web server to a browser and vice versa. The sensitive information here can include anything – from your login details, addresses, signups, payment information or personal data.
What an SSL certificate does is that encrypts your connection to protect your site’s data from getting sniffed by hackers and malicious people during the transmission.
You can secure all Your Domain Names with a Single Certificate
It’s possible to secure all the subdomain names linking to your main site with a single Wildcard SSL certificate. This certificate saves you the trouble of installing the certificate to every single one of your subdomains.
This makes it the ideal SSL certificate to go with if you’re operating a relatively large website featuring several subdomains. As a matter of fact, you only have to install the certificate to your main domain and it will automatically link to all the subdomains as well.
Credibility and Trust
The key reason anyone would want to install an SSL certificate is to gain their visitors’ trust. Starting with the fact that the security padlock that shows up at the address bar of a browser whenever someone loads your site up has a way of making your website appear more professional and trustworthy.
Very few of the online customers you’re likely to attract know about the SSL certificate and what it actually entails. Also, a big chunk of online shoppers tend to approach new sites with caution, considering there have been rampant cases of people getting defrauded online. So the last thing you want them to see is being told that your site is insecure.
And whether you like it or NOT, a great number of the visitors you attract to your site will be quick to hit the exit button once their browser suggests your site is insecure.
You visitors also want to know that you’re as concerned about their privacy the same way you’re concerned about getting them to take action. They want to feel like you take their privacy seriously and that you’re willing to go an extra mile to keep their personal information private.
And this is what happens when your site doesn’t feature an SSL certificate – the browser will be marking it as unsafe, thus scaring a few of your site’s visitors that were about to throw all caution to the wind and take action.
Having an SSL certificate installed on your site will impact your SEO ranking on a positive note. In other words, installing an SSL certificate is going to get you ranked high in the SERPs.
In an HTTPs initiative started by Google, it was established that sites with an encrypted connection will be favourably ranked compared with their counterparts with an insecure connection. Which is to say – if NOT for anything, you can install the certificate for the simple fact that it’s going to give you a competitive edge over other businesses within your line of operation.
Why Installing the Certificate is even More Important for Singapore Web Owners
Every web owner in Singapore is a security risk. Not too long ago the Red Cross was hacked with 4,300 blood donor confidential information compromised – see news article.
The risk gets even worse when the website is database-driven or running on an open-source content managing system such as WordPress or Joomla.
Hackers have a way of targeting such sites, and a simple miscalculation on your part could mean losing all your data to these hackers, whose motive is to disrupt your business, rob you and your visitors or use your site to carry out a long list of other nefarious activities.
Singapore web owners are advised to install the certificate if they’re concerned about the safety of their online operations or the security of the visitors they attract.
Here are more reasons you’d want to install the certificate to your site:
If you’re planning to start accepting payments through your site
It’s simply logic, if you have plans to start accepting payments on your site, you must be willing to go an extra mile and ensure the site is NOT exposed to any form of security risk.
Also, one standard requirement for accepting credit card payment through PayPal or Stripe is to have the certificate installed in your site. The requirement extends to even some of the world’s most popular web hosting companies such as GoDaddy, which demand that you install an SSL certificate to be allowed to accept credit cards.
Lastly, you certainly wouldn’t want to expose your customers to the risk of giving a third party direct access to their credit card information every time they’re online trying to shop with you.
Before you even think of attracting a repeat client, you must be certain that their security is guaranteed.
Some online shopping platforms come with a pre-built payment system that’s already been secured. In this case, there’ll be a third party handling all your credit card payment or providing a different payment gateway system. You might NOT need an SSL certificate for security reasons if that’s the case.
To Protect Login Info
Is any of the pages on your site are password protected – where users have to enter a username and password to access it? That includes any site that’s running on a content management platform such as WordPress or Joomla.
If that’s the case, then you must make the minimal effort of installing an SSL certificate to prevent your login details or that of your site’s visitors from getting into the wrong hands.
Black-hat hackers are known for targeting membership sites with multiple logins. So don’t give them the luxury of targeting your site by making it vulnerable to attacks.
Suffice it to say that any site that needs to be secured must be installed with the certificate.
For Securing Web Forms
You don’t necessarily need to be collecting money on your site to install the certificate. Let’s just say so long as you’re collecting any sensitive piece of information that you wouldn’t want to get into the wrong hands, then it behooves you to install the certificate to beef up the security precautions on your website.
It can be anything, like collecting lead for home buyers or coming up with a questionnaire that your site’s visitors will be filling. Either way, you want to make sure that the information you get stays protected and that there’s NO risk of it getting into the wrong hands.
Without an SSL certificate, you’re creating a possibility of your email info getting intercepted, and when this happens, you’ll be violating the privacy that you’re supposed to guarantee your site’s visitors.
How to Get the Certificate
Getting the certificate is a no-brainer. If anything, it should only take you a few minutes of your time to install it on your site or way less if you get a professional to help you install it.
You can start by checking if your web hosting company has an offer for the certificates. There’s even a possibility that the company might be offering it for free.
Also, if you’re operating on a somewhat tight budget, you might want to check out with companies such as Symantec that happen to have a free offer on the standard version of the certificate.
Let’s Encrypt is another trusted company dealing on the same and that’s worth checking out. You’ll be issued with the certificate, but installing it can prove to be a little too technical if you’ve never installed one before.
If you do NOT have the time and might use some professional help while it, you might want to contact a web development company such as MediaOne to help you out or even advise you on the most suited SSL certificate to go for, depending on the needs and nature of your business.
But even with the free certificates on offer, it’s always wise to use a paid Certificate Authority. This is particularly important if the survival of your business depends on how secure your site is.
For an enterprise site, consider installing an EV certificate. The EV certificate is recommended because it comes with an extra layer of protection, having been subjected to a strict authentication process. Plus, it designed to add more visible indicators including the name of your company, a green bar, your company abbreviation and so much more.
The Benefits of installing an SSL certificate to your website are all clear and easy to see. You don’t need further convincing as to why it’s important to consider activating the certificate, given the future of your site depends on it.
Installing it is even easier, meaning you only have yourself to blame if something ever happens to your site simply because you never took the broad step to seal all the loopholes that made you vulnerable to attacks.
That said, we urge you to consider cashing in on the HTTPs revolution by adding an extra layer of protection to your site in a bid to gain your visitor’s trust and climb up the search engine ranks.