The Internet has been the single greatest force in the democratization of human knowledge. Save for those inhibited by the Great Firewall of China, the Internet’s more than 4.5 billion active users have access to trillions of URLs that are live on the World Wide Web. While such vast access is certainly a good thing, it has a dark side —cybercriminals looking to cause financial mayhem thanks to the billions of web pages they could potentially attack. Some cyberattacks are spectacular and grab international headlines. However, the overwhelming majority are subtle, low-level attacks that affect small to medium profile websites. Many attacks go unnoticed. As the creativity and sophistication of cybercriminals increases, so does the need to develop more effective defense mechanisms. SSL (and its successor, TLS) remains the most reliable weapon against cyberattacks. SSL has been around for more than two decades but some organizations have put off adoption thanks to concerns over the cost and complexity of implementation. Here’s a look at the most compelling benefits of implementing SSL certificates on your website.
1. Site security
This is the primary reason for implementing SSL. The certificates ensure the protection of sensitive information transmitted to and from the site. Such confidential data would include login credentials, payment information, addresses, and signups. SSL certificates encrypt the connection and protect site visitor data from being breached by attackers.
2. Identity credibility and verification
The Internet is not too different from “the real world.” There are billions of honest, well-meaning users but there are also a sizeable number of people online with ill intent. Incidents of online deception can make for hilarious reading. Nevertheless, others have graver, more expensive consequences for their victims.
An SSL certificate starts with a verification and vetting process. SSL verification serves the same purpose as Twitter or Instagram account verification. When someone visits your website, there’s no way for them to tell for sure if you are who you claim to be or if you are someone using a reputable person or organization’s name to scam users into sharing their most sensitive information.
A trusted third-party referred to as a Certificate Authority (CA) runs a vetting process to check the legitimacy of the website and/or the applicant. That way, only legitimate entities receive the certificates. The rules of verification are developed by the CAB forum, which comprises browsers and CAs. Verification comes in three levels.
Domain validation is the lowest level and proves who controls the domain. Organization validation checks domain ownership and includes the organization’s information in the certificate. Extended validation requires the applying organization to upload documentation to prove its identity. It’s the highest level and results in the company’s name being included in the green box preceding the URL in the address bar.
3. Build customer trust
Major browsers now tag websites as insecure if they do not have SSL. If your website has an SSL certificate, that will be indicated by a padlock in the visitor’s browser address bar. This shows that the connection is secure and demonstrates to your customers that you treat their privacy with the seriousness it deserves. SSL, therefore, builds customer confidence and reassures them that they are dealing with a trustworthy entity.
4. Search engine ranking
An SSL certificate has search engine ranking implications. For several years now, major players in the Internet universe such as Google have been pushing to make the web a safer place by urging websites to adopt SSL protection. Google’s HTTPS Everywhere initiative gives websites with SSL a marginal rankings boost. While this is just one of the numerous other signals that the search engine considers when ranking query results, it will give your site an advantage over websites that don’t have it.
Remember, that a website’s bounce rate also plays a part in its search engine ranking (that is, the percentage of a site’s visitors who navigate away shortly after they arrive). In Google’s eyes, it’s a bit of a vote on a site’s relevance. The higher the bounce rate, the further down search results the Google algorithm will push it. When visitors see the address bar warning that a site they are visiting is not secure, they tend to leave. This creates a vicious cycle of deteriorating ranking.
5. Compliance with industry regulations and standards
Certain industry regulators require organizations to have SSL on their site. The banking industry is perhaps the best example. Regulators come down hard on a financial institution’s online banking service if it cannot demonstrate the security of its connection via SSL.
The payments card industry (PCI) is also a case in point. While the PCI is not a regulator in the real sense, the widespread use of card payments means the standards it sets are a de facto regulation for any online business that wants to accept the major cards for online transactions. The PCI standard makes it mandatory for participating websites to acquire their SSL certificate from a reliable source with proper encryption.
6. Protect subdomains with a wildcard
With a standard SSL implementation, you have to install separate certificates for each subdomain on your site, for example, blog.examplesite.com, shop.examplesite.com, investors.examplesite.com, vendors.examplesite.com, users.examplesite.com, etc. However, a special type of SSL certificate referred to as a wildcard allows you to secure not just the main domain but also all of your subdomains. This is especially useful for large websites with dozens of subdomains.
SSL certificates: The benefits are compelling
These are just some of the many benefits you can expect from activating SSL certificates on your website. Better yet, hosting providers have made installing certificates a quick and easy process even for people with no IT background. Take advantage of the HTTPS wave, add a new layer of security, and gain your visitor’s trust.
Featured image: Freepik / Upklyak