Staying safe online gets harder with each passing year. After all, hacking has become a thriving, billion-dollar industry—albeit illegal. So how can we stay safe online? And, as business owners, how can we fortify our websites to protect consumer information?
These are essential questions. But they can be challenging to dive into without a basic understanding of how the internet works. Below, we’ve outlined a few basic definitions you’ll need to know.
Secure Socket Layers is a type of security protocol that enables a website to send information over the internet safely. With SSL, any data transmitted (like a credit card number, phone number, or address) will be encrypted to prevent another party from “eavesdropping”—or using that information for their nefarious purposes.
To use SSL, a website owner must obtain an SSL certificate. We’ll talk later about how you can do that. For now, it’s enough to know that without an SSL certificate, you can’t ensure that your customers’ information stays private and secure.
HTTP, or Hypertext Transfer Protocol, is the foundation of the internet. It allows communication platforms, like browsers, to obtain all the information they need to load a website. You will often see “HTTP” at the start of a URL. This means the website uses Hypertext Transfer Protocol to transfer data across the internet.
You may have noticed that some URLs start with “HTTP” while others begin with “HTTPS.” This slight difference may seem insignificant, but it relays some pretty important information. The “S” in HTTPS stands for secure. It’s used to signify that an SSL certificate fortifies a website.
Like most people, we love an online shopping spree. But when it comes to sharing your valuable information on the internet, you must ensure the website is secure. So, here’s how you know if the website you’re visiting has an SSL certificate:
These two signposts indicate that a website has an SSL certificate and is generally considered safe. However, some cybercriminals have discovered ways to exploit our trust in SSL. Here are a few other things you can do to ensure your information stays safe when shopping online:
In other words, trust your instincts! If a website feels sketchy, it probably is.
Now that you know how to browse the internet and share information securely, the next step is to ensure your customers have safe experiences as well. Of course, the first thing you should do is obtain an SSL certificate for your website. You can work with a certificate authority like Let’s Encrypt, Comodo, or Digicert.
It’s best to choose an authority offering technical support, unless you already know about and understand which type of certificate you’ll need. There are at least three you should be aware of:
DV certificates are the most basic type of SSL certificates. While it will ensure shared information is encrypted, it might not be a good fit if you run a successful business and want your certificate to include your company’s identity information.
OV certificates allow you to authenticate your business and include information specific to your company. However, that information won’t be prominently displayed—forcing users to review the certificate details if they want to see more.
To receive an EV certificate, a business must meet the highest requirements of any SSL certificate. However, meeting these high standards does pay off. An EV certificate will lend you the most credibility and will clearly display your company’s name next to a lock icon in the search bar.
While an SSL certificate is at the top of the list, there are other steps you can take to create a secure website. We also recommend that you stay up-to-date with your website’s software and design, use uncrackable passwords, and manually accept any on-site commands.
According to the FBI, Americans lost nearly $7 billion to cyber criminals in 2021. Most of these crimes were related to personal data breaches and phishing. So if you’re wondering whether cybersecurity really matters, there’s your answer.
Without an SSL certificate, you leave your customers vulnerable to having their information intercepted and used in ways that can be financially devastating. Moreover, you could become subject to hefty fines from the PCI SSC (Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council).
All of this should be enough to persuade you that an SSL certificate is worth the investment—especially if your website collects, stores, processes, or transmits credit card details. But if you’re still not convinced, consider this: failing to obtain an SSL certificate will result in fewer sales. Not only will your customers be disinclined to share their information with you, but Google won’t promote your search engine ranking either. You might as well throw all your other SEO efforts straight down the drain.
Whether you sell products/services directly from your website or not, it’s time to get an SSL certificate. As hackers become more innovative and Google continues to prioritize security in their search engine rankings, it will become virtually impossible to run a successful online business without one.
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