So you’ve chosen a reliable hosting provider and acquired a domain name for your website. The next item on your checklist should be to obtain an SSL certificate. We live in a digital age where customers make frequent transactions online, and having a secure browsing experience is crucial to obtain consumer trust and establishing your brand’s credibility online.
SSL certificates play a role in safeguarding customer information from cybercriminals, as it encrypts data transmission and make it difficult for hackers to steal them. With a staggering 65% of buyers experiencing credit card fraud at least once, you must take the necessary steps to ensure your buyers are well-protected from cyber threats.
This article will discuss why an SSL certificate should be one of your top priorities when creating a website in 2023.
What is an SSL certificate?
An SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate is a security badge that authenticates the identity of a website and encrypts the data transmitted between the website and its visitors. At its core, encryption refers to scrambling plaintext into ciphertext. This process makes it virtually impossible for hackers to intercept incoming and outgoing data from your website.
Since the data exchanged remains confidential, SSL certificates prevent unauthorized access and potential data breaches. There are three main types of SSL certificates, each providing a level of protection depending on your needs. These are:
- Domain Validated (DV) Certificate: This is the basic level of SSL certificate that verifies domain ownership. It provides encryption and establishes a secure connection but does not require extensive validation of the organization or individual requesting the certificate.
- Organization Validated (OV) Certificate: This type of certificate not only verifies the domain ownership but also conducts a more thorough validation of the organization’s identity. It includes verifying the organization’s legal existence, physical address, and other details.
- Extended Validation (EV) Certificate: EV certificates provide the highest level of trust and authentication. They undergo a stringent verification process, including verifying legal existence, physical address, operational status, and legal rights to use the domain. EV certificates display the organization’s name alongside its website name, giving users more confidence in verifying the company’s legitimacy.
If you observe the websites you visit online, most of them will come with a padlock icon next to their site name. This icon indicates that the website has a domain-validated or organization-validated certificate. Here’s an example:
This means our website has a domain-validated or organization-validated certificate. Some websites come with a green bar that indicates their company name along with a padlock icon. If you see these elements, this means the company has spent additional resources to secure an extended validation certificate.
What are the benefits of securing an SSL certificate?
SSL certificates do more than just encrypt data. The following benefits are immediately evident the moment you secure one for your website:
1. Obtain consumer trust
SSL certificates provide a means of authentication that establish trust between the website and its visitors. When a website has an SSL certificate, it undergoes a verification process to ensure that it is legitimate and belongs to the entity it claims to represent. This verification is conducted by a trusted third-party called a Certificate Authority (CA).
The CA verifies the identity of the website owner by validating their domain ownership, organization details, and other relevant information. Once the verification is complete, the CA issues the SSL certificate, which contains cryptographic keys that are used to authenticate the website.
When visitors land on a website secured with an SSL certificate, they see visual cues, such as a padlock icon or a green address bar, indicating that the website is secure and that the identity of the owner has been verified. This visual confirmation instills confidence in users, assuring them that their interactions with the website are safe and that their data is protected.
2. Elevate search engine rankings
In addition to the security benefits, SSL certificates also have a positive impact on search engine optimization (SEO). Search engines, like Google, prioritize secure websites in their search results. This means that websites with SSL certificates are more likely to rank higher than non-secure websites.
By implementing an SSL certificate, website owners can improve their website’s visibility and attract more organic traffic. This is particularly important for businesses that rely on their online presence to generate leads and drive conversions. Investing in an SSL certificate can give website owners a competitive edge by improving their search engine rankings.
3. Protect against data breaches
SSL certificates play a crucial role in protecting websites and their users from phishing attacks and data breaches. Phishing is a type of cyber attack where malicious actors impersonate legitimate websites to trick users into providing sensitive information. These attacks often rely on creating fake websites that mimic the appearance of genuine ones.
With an SSL certificate in place, website owners can mitigate the risk of phishing attacks. The certificate verifies the website’s identity, making it more difficult for attackers to impersonate it. When users see the visual indicators of a secure connection, they can be confident that they are interacting with a genuine website and not a fraudulent one.
Furthermore, SSL certificates encrypt the data transmitted between the user’s browser and the website, making it significantly harder for attackers to intercept and steal sensitive information. This encryption acts as a powerful deterrent against data breaches and protects both the website owner and its visitors.
4. Comply with industry standards
Many industries have specific security and compliance requirements that organizations must adhere to. SSL certificates play a crucial role in meeting these standards and regulatory obligations.
For example, the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) mandates the use of SSL certificates for the secure transmission of credit card information. E-commerce websites that process online payments must have an SSL certificate to comply with these regulations and ensure the protection of customer data.
Similarly, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) requires organizations to implement appropriate security measures to protect the personal data of European Union residents. SSL certificates provide a strong layer of encryption and data protection, helping businesses meet the GDPR’s requirements.
How do I obtain an SSL certificate?
To obtain an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate for your website, you can follow these general steps:
- Determine your SSL certificate needs: Decide what type of SSL certificate you require based on your website’s needs. Common types include domain validation (DV), organization validation (OV), and extended validation (EV) certificates.
- Choose a Certificate Authority (CA): Select a trusted CA that offers SSL certificates. Some popular CAs include Let’s Encrypt, Comodo, DigiCert, and GoDaddy. Consider factors such as cost, reputation, and customer support when choosing a CA.
- Generate a Certificate Signing Request (CSR): A CSR is a file containing your website’s public key. It is required by the CA to issue your SSL certificate. Most web hosting control panels have the option to generate a CSR, or you can use OpenSSL command-line tools.
- Submit the CSR to the CA: Follow the CA’s instructions to submit your CSR. This typically involves accessing their website, providing necessary information about your organization and domain, and pasting the CSR into a form.
- Complete the domain validation process: The CA will validate your ownership of the domain. This process may involve email verification, DNS record changes, or file uploads to your website.
- Verify and approve the SSL certificate: Once the CA completes the domain validation, they will issue the SSL certificate. You will receive the certificate files, including the primary certificate, any intermediate certificates, and sometimes a private key.
- Install the SSL certificate on your web server: Log in to your web hosting control panel or server administration panel. Locate the SSL/TLS settings and find the option to install the certificate. You will need to paste the certificate, and in some cases, the private key and intermediate certificates as well.
- Configure your website to use HTTPS: Update your website’s configuration to use HTTPS instead of HTTP. Ensure that all internal links, images, scripts, and other resources are also using HTTPS.
- Test your SSL installation: Use online SSL checker tools to verify that your SSL certificate is installed correctly and working. This will help ensure that your website is properly secured.
When you buy a hosting plan, your provider will usually install a Let’s Encrypt SSL certificate for your domain automatically. It’s a good idea to double-check it since certain providers may require you to enable it manually, or you may need to personally renew your SSL certificate. If you’re unsure, reach out to your web host for assistance.
Securing an SSL certificate is paramount to protecting your customers’ information from cybercriminals. Hopefully, the information in this article gives you a solid idea of why SSL certificates are important and help you acquire one for your website.
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