Is Your Website Secure? Defining SSL Encryption and Why You Need It

 

Even with all of the advantages and practicalities the Internet offers us, the argument could definitely be made that in many ways we would be safer without it. The Internet can be a scary place where stalkers and scammers, hackers and spammers lurk, leaving in their wake a constantly evolving web of illegal activity and other threats such as destructive viruses.

Whether you are running a home-based business on the side or a full-fledged company, the bottom line is that you should be approaching online security in the same way that you would approach the physical security of your home or business. After all, if you are buying and selling online, then your livelihood, your reputation, and even your assets may depend on the security of those transactions. But how can you help prevent breeches, theft, and fraud online while running your small business? This is where SSL encryption comes in.

 

How Does SSL Encryption Work?

 

SSL stands for Secure Socket Layer. It is a technology that establishes a secure connection between the visitor’s web browser and your website in which all communications transmitted through this link are encrypted. The mechanism behind this process is a small piece of code called an SSL certificate. This code has two specific functions:

 

1. Authentication and Verification.

The SSL certificate helps to verify certain details regarding the identity of a person, business or website, which it will display to visitors on your website when they click on the browser’s padlock symbol or trust mark. Visitors to your site will be able to tell that the website is secured by three characteristics: Its address will start with https rather than just http; the address bar will (in most cases) be colored green; and visitors will (in most cases) see a padlock symbol at the bottom of the screen.

 

2. Data Encryption.

The SSL certificate also enables encryption, which means that the sensitive data exchanged via the website cannot be intercepted and read by any other party other than the intended recipient. In other words, SSL provides us with a way to padlock our information, encrypting or shuffling it so that it cannot fall into the wrong hands.

 

When Would a Business Owner Need to Use an SSL Certificate?

 

You will need an SSL certificate if you are doing business online, and you wish to submit data securely. Otherwise, everything that you do online- the information that you send, store, and manipulate- is fair game for fraudsters and hackers. Some common uses for SSL certificates among business owners include:

  • Securing the connection between your website and your customer’s Internet browser.
  • Securing information between servers.
  • Securing information sent and received via mobile devices.
  • Securing email communications sent to and from your network

 

The Three Main Types of SSL Certification

 

There are a number of different SSL certificates on the market today.

 

Self-Certification

The first type of SSL certificate is a self-signed certificate. As the name implies, this is a certificate that is generated for internal purposes. It is a DIY version, and as such, it is the least secure SSL option, since it is not subject to vetting or external evaluation.

 

Domain Validated Certification

Domain Validation Certification ascertains whether a person/company actually does own a specific online domain. It is considered an entry-level SSL certificate and can be issued quickly. But, no additional checks are done to ensure that the owner of the domain is a valid business entity.

 

Fully Authenticated SSL Certification

This third option is the most comprehensive given that it involves a screening process and checks which allow a company/individual to reassure customers/users that it really does exist, it really does own the domain, and it really is legitimate, all of which are evidenced by the fact that it has been awarded the SSL certificate. It is the first step to true online security and confidence building.

 

Other SSL Certifications

 

In addition to the SSL options mentioned above, here are another three popular choices that may be appropriate for your business’ web properties:

 

Wildcard certificates

If your domain name is used with a number of different host suffixes, you may employ a Wildcard certificate that allows you to provide full SSL security to any host of your domain.

 

Code signing certificates

These are specifically designed to ensure that any software being downloaded was not tampered with while en route.

 

Extended Validation (EV) SSL certificates

EV SSL offers the highest industry standard for authentication and provides the best level of customer trust available. When consumers visit a website secured with an EV SSL certificate, the address bar turns green and a special field appears with the name of the legitimate website owner along with the name of the security provider that issued the EV SSL certificate.

 

In closing, just as you would extend protection to your physical assets, make sure you secure the online business you are working so hard to build up.

 


 

Source: The Frugal Entrepreneur, 2013

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