There you are, browsing along, clicking on sites and pages, and suddenly a notification stops you in your tracks: “This website’s SSL certificate is expired.” Do you want to continue? Should you worry? Learn more about what this message means and if you can safely proceed to the website. 

SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) is a protocol for websites that creates a secure link between a web browser and a web server. This link encrypts the information within a website, meaning that if anyone tried to access, hack, or intercept the data on the browser, they would instead see a mix of numbers, letters, and characters, which makes it difficult to understand the information.  

It was first developed by Netscape in 1995 for the purpose of ensuring privacy, authentication, and data integrity in Internet communications.  

Here are some ways you can check if SSL is present on a site you’re visiting. 

  • The lock icon on the browser bar. If you see it, SSL is active. You can check for expanded details—like to whom the certificate was issued—by clicking on it. Pay attention to the lock color, since it can let you know if everything’s in good order. If you see a green lock and check the mark, the site is clear. If you see a red or unlocked padlock, you have a potential issue on your hands. 
  • That “s” on the end of https—stands for secure. 
  • Browser notifications. You may notice a pop-up message temporarily blocks your content and it tells you that the website should be protected but isn’t anymore. 

What is an SSL certificate? 

An SSL certificate is a data file that users can install on web servers for security purposes. When users install SSL certificates on their server, it activates security protocols, which enables a secure connection between a server and a website. 

Typically, websites have security layer certificates when they ask for personal information from users, like payment information or email addresses. Companies that work with user information, like doctor offices, retail stores, or subscription services, typically have security layer certificates for their website.  

Here are the different types of SSL certificates: 

  • Single Domain: This certificate works for one individual domain, but not any subdomains. 
  • Wildcard: This certificate covers one domain and its subdomains. 
  • Unified Communications (UCC): This certificate protects a user’s multiple domains under one certificate. This can cover up to 100 domains at a time. 
  • Domain Validation (DV) Certificate: This certificate covers multiple domains and offers a lower level of encryption, though it leaves subdomains unprotected. 
  • Organization Validated (OV): This certificate provides a moderate level of encryption, and they generally are the least expensive certificate. 
  • Extended Validation (EV): This certificate offers the highest level of protection, and sites that handle a high degree of sensitive information typically choose this certificate. 

How does SSL work? 

  • To provide a high degree of privacy, SSL encrypts data that is transmitted across the web. This means that anyone who tries to intercept this data will only see a garbled mix of characters that is nearly impossible to decrypt. 
  • SSL initiates an authentication process called a handshake between two communicating devices to ensure that both devices are really who they claim to be. 
  • SSL also digitally signs data in order to provide data integrity, verifying that the data is not tampered with before reaching its intended recipient. 

Why is SSL important for a website? 

1. Protects user data and establishes trust with users 

Using an SSL certificate provides protection for you and anyone who visits your website. Whenever a user enters their personal information into a website, the SSL blocks anyone outside the website from accessing that information. When setting up the SSL, you can designate who has access to sensitive information, which gives those individuals options to view secure data. Having an SSL certificate may help you build trust with individuals who use your website. These certificates protect their information and can provide them with peace of mind while shopping. You can provide messages to your users that explain how their information is secure on your website because of the SSL certificate. 

2. Gives you more protection against hackers 

If you use an SSL certificate, your information is less likely to get hacked. It’s especially useful to use SSL certificates if your website involves usernames, passwords, credit card information, or personal information since this is typically the information that hackers search for. If they hack your website, the SSL certificate turns the data into jumbled and confusing formatting which is nearly impossible to decipher. 

Related: Top Tips to Keep Your Website Secure  

3. Increases search engine ranks 

Many browsers promote websites that have SSL, so that users can visit websites that have excellent protective measures. If you’re looking to gain popularity for your website, installing SSL certificates may be better for your website’s search engine optimization (SEO), which can increase the amount of traffic to your website. Some browsers label websites that do not have an SSL certificate as “not secure” which might make users less likely to visit your website. 

Related: Building an SEO Friendly Website 

4. Meets PCI standards 

Any website that accepts online payments from users must first meet the Payment card Industry (PC) Data Security Standard requirements. These comprise a set of steps that you must take to be eligible to accept credit card payments online. One of these steps is obtaining an SSL certificate to secure your website, so getting an SSL puts you one step closer to meeting PCI standards. 

5. Requires security identification 

SSL requires users to verify their identity before inputting information into your website, which lowers the risk of stolen identities or fraudulent purchases. It also requires authentication before you send private information to a third party. 

For example, if a user makes a payment through your website, and then you place that money into a bank account, the SSL requires the bank to identify themselves, to ensure you’re sending the money to the correct facility. 

Related: 10 cybersecurity mistakes you’re probably making 

6. Identifies risks 

If you have SSL for your website, you may get notified when a potential hack or security threat happens. Typically, when hackers try to infiltrate your website, you can be notified right away, so that you can take the proper security measures, like checking that the website’s information is still secure and changing any passwords or login data. You can also log any cases of potential hacking so that you can quickly identify if hackers were able to get the website’s data. 

How safe would you feel if your browser warned you about a website being “not secure”? Because that’s what is shown in Chrome if you don’t have an SSL certificate. Do you want that? Of course, you don’t. 

So, what are you waiting for? Check out our super-affordable range of SSL certificates and add an unconquerable layer of protection to your website. 

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