What Is SSL?

In these times of heightened concerns relating to online security and the nefarious activities of online hackers, it is hopefully reassuring to know that there is a multitude of ways in which your website and its data can be protected. However, how people interact with the internet and specifically with websites, also means that ordinary people have concerns about the security of their personal data.

This has led us to a situation, and rightly so, that the majority of website owners are taking the necessary precautions to ensure that hackers have a much more difficult task in attacking their websites and trying to obtain data for criminal use.

One of the ways in which these precautions against hacking have improved is via a security protocol called Secure Sockets Layer which you are more likely to see abbreviated to SSL. Primarily, SSL’s function is to protect the data which is travelling between the user’s browser and the server the website is hosted on.

SSL creates protection by encrypting the data whilst it is en route between the server and the browser. With that in mind, it beholds us to ensure that you understand that means that data stored on the server is not protected by SSL. The best analogy we can think of is someone driving their car from their home to their office. Whilst in transit they and their car would be protected but neither their home nor office is.

How Does SSL Protect Internet Users?

The basis of how SSL works is relatively simple to understand especially in how it protects data from hackers. Imagine landing on an e-commerce website and deciding to make a purchase using your credit card. If a hacker has managed to install data reading software on that website’s server without being detected, they would be able to obtain your data and presumably use it to make purchases with your credit card.

However, if the website owner has had the good sense to have SSL installed, the data you send including your name, address, and credit card details is encrypted. As such even if a hacker tried to intercept it, the information would be of no use to them as it would be in encrypted form.

How Does SSL Benefit Website Owners

Everyone is aware more than ever of the increased number of hacking attacks that are taking place. This means that the public, some of whom will be people visiting your website, are more conscious of online security and will act accordingly to protect themselves.

One way this manifests itself is knowing the difference between websites that have SSL and those that do not. By looking at the URL at the top of their browser, a user will usually either see it begins ‘HTTP’ or ‘HTTPS’. The latter has the letter ‘S’ which stands for ‘Secure’ and thus anyone visiting those websites are more likely to interact by sending their details or making a purchase as they know the website has an SSL certificate which automatically changes the URL to HTTPS.

For websites that do not have an SSL certificate, visitors are going to feel their data is less safe. In addition, Google is going to take a dim view of it too. If you value your search engine ranking you are going to be upset to learn that Google will deliberately give preference to those websites that have SSL, and thus the ‘HTTPS’ prefix, and that means those that do not, who will see their rankings suffer.

Obtaining SSL and SSL Certificates

The good news is that having SSL for your website is extremely easy and relatively inexpensive. You can get it for free, albeit the protection may not be as robust. Your hosting company can generate an SSL certificate that can be automatically installed for you. Alternatively, there are many website security companies or Certificate Authorities (CAs) that you a purchase an SSL certificate from, and in most cases it is less than $100 per year.