What is an SSL Certificate and Why Do You Need One?
An SSL certificate allows information between your website and your users to be transmitted safely. They are used for many different web security situations, including every legitimate ecommerce store on the internet, as well as websites that require you to fill out forms that contain personal or sensitive information.
It is a bit like having your own Batphone.
In the Batman television show from the 1960s, Commissioner Gordon used the Batphone during emergencies so that he could speak to Batman securely. When they were using the Batphone the bad guys could not eavesdrop on their conversations.
Use the Secure Line
An SSL certificate is similar in principle to a Batphone. To understand this it is important to first look at how standard data is transmitted across the internet. Essentially it gets sent as plain text. In theory this means it could be intercepted and read by anyone (like the bad guys listening to Batman’s “normal” phone).
For most internet applications, this is not a problem. But it becomes a significant issue when sensitive data is being transferred, particularly bank and credit card details.
Without SSL certificates this sort of information would also be transmitted as plain text and could therefore be stolen or altered. But with an SSL certificate the information is encrypted. If this encrypted information is intercepted, it will appear as gobbledygook to the hacker and will be useless.
So the main benefit of using an SSL certificate is that it prevents anyone from stealing your customers’ personal or sensitive information.
But there are other benefits.
Without SSL certificates fraudsters could potentially spoof your website. This means creating their own site and presenting it to potential customers in place of yours. If you take payments from customers or they send you private data this can be a lucrative scam.
An SSL certificate prevents anyone from spoofing your website.
Finally, they also prevent data from being altered between you and your customers. This can be done intentionally or accidentally but either way the result is always the same – the integrity of the data or transaction will have been compromised. Try to avoid this wherever possible.
Why Do You Need an SSL Certificate
There are two main reasons for using SSL certificates:
- Security – You have a moral and legal duty to keep your customers’ personal information safe. This obviously includes their financial details like their bank and credit card information, but it also includes their personal data. This could be everything from their telephone number to their social security number. SSL certificates give you the ability to provide your customers with this protection. It is also important to note that SSL certificates are suitable for every website (including small and medium sized businesses) as they are easy to set up and they are affordable.
- Trust – Consumers know and trust SSL certificates as they have been using them for many years now. For example, people know to check that the web address in their browser displays HTTPS rather than HTTP. By using SSL certificates on your website you will be demonstrating to your customers that you take internet security seriously. This will give them more confidence to do business with you.
Whichever you choose you will be in good company as many of the world’s biggest websites use SSL certificates. For example, both Facebook and Google use them when you’re using their products.
So think of it like this: your business needs a similar level of protection during all communications. Whether you use a Batphone or smart phone, securing your transactions keeps you and your customers safe.