As you start trying to figure out everything that’s involved in the design and development of your new website, you get bombarded with lots of new acronyms. Among them, SSL is an important one on the technical side of things. It’s also one of the more unfamiliar to people who aren’t involved in building or maintaining websites.
What Is SSL?
SSL stands for “secure sockets layer.” Basically, it’s a standard online security technology that encrypts information sent between a website’s users and the website itself. It protects sensitive data, including personal and financial information visitors provide, making it a crucial part of running a secure, trustworthy website.
The protocol prevents interception of passwords, names, addresses, email addresses, phone numbers, social security numbers, credit card numbers, and other private information by hackers and cybercriminals. It’s essential for any site with e-commerce capabilities, but also for websites that gather any private data from its users.
Additionally, SSL validates that a website is authentic and the site it claims to be. It’s a common tactic for cybercriminals to set up imposter websites, also known as spoofed sites, to steal credit card numbers or collect other information for identity theft.
One Important Letter and Icon
When you’re using a site, there’s an easy way to tell if it’s secured with SSL: instead of starting with HTTP://, the URL (website address) starts with HTTPS://. The letter S indicates the site is secured using SSL technology. There’s also a little lock icon to the left of the URL.
Always check for this on any web page before entering personal or financial information. And just as you can use this as an indicator of trustworthiness and security, others want to see it on your website to confirm its safety before entrusting you with their sensitive data.
An Added Benefit: SEO
Implementing SSL helps with search engine optimization (SEO). Google and other search engines want to return the most relevant and useful results for searchers, but they also strive to provide the most reliable results. That means higher rankings for sites with proper security measures protecting their users. To enjoy SEO benefits, all pages and elements of a website must be secured by SSL.
Should You Use SSL?
The short answer? Yes.
The slightly longer answer: You only need SSL if you collect personal information from people who use your website. If you have a login feature with user names and passwords (for customers or your own personnel); if you have any calls to action requesting names, email addresses, or other contact info; or if you sell anything through your site, SSL is definitely recommended.
It reassures visitors your site is who and what it claims to be and that it’s trustworthy, but even more importantly, it protects the information your users enter. If you’re not protecting your users, you open yourself up to losing their trust, to serious brand damage, and to liability.
Is SSL All the Security You Need?
No. SSL is not a total security system. It encrypts and safeguards data sent between your users and your website while it’s in transit. It does not, however, protect all the data that’s stored in servers once it has been transmitted. The most important step in securing the data you collect from users is choosing a reliable website host.