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A Complete Guide Breaking Down the Necessity of a SSL Certificate

The web is a dark and dangerous place. Hackers lurk behind shiny looking websites, who when you least expect make away with your precious data.

Security is of utmost importance to your data. Without it, your business is no longer reliable for customers. Gone are the days when antivirus software did the trick to protect your systems. Now with the massive widespread of the Internet and eCommerce, the need for security is in terms of web security and not just standalone systems.

Encryption is the highest form of security that websites can rely on today to seek to protect from cybersecurity attacks, which is exactly what an SSL certificate provides.

What is an SSL certificate?

An SSL certificate is an a bit sized file that encrypts the information that is exchanged between a web browser and a server. Imagine it to be a tunnel. The tunnel encrypts every single snippet of data that passes through it. Hackers cannot see it directly, even if they do, the data appears in gibberish and incomprehensible form thus beating the very intent of the hackers.

Websites secured by SSL certificates have their URLs prefixed with HTTPS. They also have the address bar in green color along with a green padlock symbol which symbolizes that the data being exchanged is indeed secured.

How does an SSL certificate work?

SSL Certificates have a pair of keys that encrypt and decrypt information between the user system and the server. The certificate also contains what is called the ‘subject’, which is nothing but the identity of the owner.

  • The first step of encryption is when the browser connects to the server and requests it to identify itself.
  • The server then relays a copy of the SSL certificate along with the public key.
  • The browser tried to identify the SSL certificate with the database of Certificate Authorities and their issued certificates.
  • Once the certificate authenticity is approved, the browser sends a symmetric session key to the server.
  • The server decrypts the symmetric key sent by the browser, thus beginning an encrypted session.

Why websites need SSL?

Websites need SSL certificate for several reasons:

  • To secure their login pages
  • To inspire customer confidence in online payments
  • For PCI compliance
  • To ensure protection against cybersecurity attacks

That said, it is not necessary to secure all pages of a website store with an SSL certificate. Only certain pages of the page where security is of paramount importance needs to be secured. Furthermore, not all websites would require it. Here are some circumstances when an SSL certificate is a necessity.

You use a third party payment gateway

There are websites that rely on third payment integrations or gateways to process payments. In such scenarios, the website is typically redirecting the user to an external source where the user privacy and information needs to be protected.

For instance, your customer is taken to an external payment website where they input the credit card information to complete the payment. In this case, your website or eCommerce store is not capturing information about the customer’s credit card. The payment website is collecting it, and hence, the need to protect the information vests with that website.

However, in other cases, where your website is collecting customer credit card information or similar sensitive information, the need for an SSL certificate is evident.

Other sensitive forms

Is your website one that collects private information of customers like medical history, address, contact, and the likes? What if, such data is leaked or publicized would cause a severe dent to your brand image?

In that case, your website needs an SSL certificate. Take, for instance, a bank. It has login credentials and accounts particulars to which no other individual other than the account holder and those authorized by him must have access. Hence, the login pages and the account transaction pages require having an SSL certificate.

PCI Compliance

The Payment Card Industry Compliance requires websites that process online payment transactions to adhere to several industry-grade payment security protocols. Setting up encryption for payment transactions is one of the protocols that are commonly referred to as DSS.

Depending on the volume of annual transactions, your website will need a higher level of SSL certificates like an EV, OV, or DV. Complying with PCI compliance is a necessary industry requirement and cannot be ignored. Moreover, displaying PCI compliance badges in the store goes a long way in impressing customers. Though these SSL Certificates are bit costly there is some platform which provides promo code & discount offer.

SEO optimization

If your website is heavily reliant on SEO ranking, an SSL certificate is a must-have. Google now considers HTTPS as a major rank signal. Websites that are less secure, or without HTTPS encryption are positioned lower than websites that are well secured.

Having an SSL-configured website is indeed a great way to optimize your website higher up the search engine rankings. Also, CMS platforms like WordPress have also made HTTPS mandatory in the recent past. Hence, by all means, having an SSL certificate makes sense.

In a Nutshell

In today’s web parlance, security is of utmost importance. Hackers are adopting novel ways to break into databases to steal sensitive information. They have even become well-versed in building identical websites, mobile apps, and even payment pages that trick naive customers into parting with their private information.

Website owners are also partially responsible for beefing up security that will protect their customers and their own website data. An SSL certificate is an ideal way to encrypt information that goes from and to your website. Configuring your website with an SSL certificate will safeguard it from all imaginable cybersecurity threats of the present-day world.

If your website is redirecting users to another page for payment optimization or wants SEO optimization or is subject to PCI compliance, then SSL certificates are a must.

Hopefully, from the above, you would have been able to arrive at a final decision as to whether your website needs an SSL certificate or not.

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