There are many reasons to have an SSL certificate on your website:
- Improved security
- Data protection
- SEO benefits
- Increased customer confidence
But before we go into too much detail about why you need an SSL, let’s just examine what an SSL certificate is and how it works.
What does an SSL Certificate do?
An SSL certificate is used to create a secure connection between your website and your users. Without an SSL certificate, when a user fills out a contact form with their email address, phone number or any other personal details, these details are sent directly to the server in plain text. This means that if the data were to fall into the wrong hands, a hacker would have access to all of this information, along with anything else that the user’s computer reveals (such as IP address).
What If My Website Is Never Hacked?
The problem isn’t just that your website could be hacked. For example, if a user is accessing your website via a public wifi hotspot, all of the data they are sending back and forth over the internet could be picked up by anyone else on the same network without them knowing (so be careful when using public wifi networks!). This includes data they send to you – it may not strictly be your fault that their personal data gets stolen on its way to your website, but you still could end up with an unhappy visitor, not to mention accusations of having weak security measures.
What Can I Do to Protect User Information?
Buy an SSL certificate! SSL certificates are relatively cheap (about £50 per year), and usually free to have installed (all SSLs on our shared hosting solution are installed and maintained for free).
How Does an SSL Certificate Protect Visitors?
An SSL certificate encrypts any data that is sent back and forth between your website and your users – what this means is that the information is randomly jumbled up, and only the user’s computer and the website server can read this information clearly, using a secret key. If anyone were to intercept these data, either over public wifi or via a hacking attempt, it would be useless without knowing the key.
Couldn’t Someone Just Crack the Key to Unlock the Data?
Not in the foreseeable future. The 256-bit keys used in modern SSL certificates are so complex that it would require fifty supercomputers that could check a billion billion potential keys per second (assuming such a powerful computer could ever be made) about 3×1051 (3,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000) years to check every possible combination.
What are Some Other Benefits of Using an SSL?
Aside from the immediate benefit of increasing the security of your website, you will also boost your visitors’ confidence in you, especially if you run an ecommerce/shopping website – they will see a green padlock in their browser bar, and a notification to say your website is secure. Beyond this, many of the big web companies (most notably Google) are very keen to encourage the use of SSL certificates, as they make the web a safer place for all of us. In particular, the Google Chrome web browser has started warning people when non-secure websites ask for user information, and this trend is likely to continue.
What About SEO?
This is the other big reason that SSL certificates are starting to grow in popularity – Google sees a website with an SSL certificate as a safe bet when it comes to web security, so will actually give a small boost to your SEO simply for having a secure website. If your competitors are using SSL certificates then you risk being left behind without having one yourself – and if they don’t, it’s an opportunity for you to get ahead of the game.