Radar Hill Blog

Then and Now Part 3: SSL

Radar Hill has been in business for 16 years, and the magnitude of change in the 21st century when it comes to websites is staggering. What was a shiny new website just 5 years ago can now be outdated and leave your business with a huge potential gap in visitors and clients. There are various measurable ways that the World Wide Web has changed in 16 years, and we are publishing a “Then and Now” blog series to illustrate what a website in 2017 requires to stay current. This edition: SSL.

 

SSL

Then:
The World Wide Web (WWW) and its Hyper Text Transfer Protocol (HTTP), one of the languages used to communicate across the Internet, triggered a new way of sharing information. A generation ago, information was not sent via electronic wireless venues, rather everything was written down on paper. If there were secure files stored in a safe for example, you would know immediately if there was a breach, as you would be able to see any damage done. And even once the Internet became prominent, what was available for hackers to access was very limited. There were no banking records, personal identities or other personal data that were stored in cyberspace that could be accessed from anywhere at anytime.

Now:
The Internet has evolved immensely in its 24 years of public use. Everything is done online. And what you need to remain secure is constantly changing. Hackers are eager to always tear down defences and exploit weaknesses, to get your information. There has been an increase in cybercrime in the last few years, with the emergence of robot networks that enable criminal activity to be conducted on an unprecedented global scale. Anyone can be targeted, and it just takes one little slip and hackers can intercept all kinds of information. However, there is something that can help combat the risks of the Internet, and that is SSL.


What is SSL?

You have probably heard the term “SSL” thrown around, and dismissed it as yet another bit of computer jargon that is confusing or irrelevant to your small website. However, not paying attention to SSL is doing a disservice to those who interact with your site, no matter the amount of traffic. So what is it exactly?

SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer, and it is designed to keep your website, and therefore your business, safe. It is an Internet security protocol that is used to encrypt information as it travels between the website server and your customers’ computers. This prevents would-be hackers/mischief makers from intercepting, reading, or changing that information as it travels. Essentially, the information transmitted from the website to the recipient is scrambled, so that the message is unreadable to everyone, except the intended recipient. This makes it nearly impossible for hackers to steal the information.

For example, a website visitor is filling out a form on your website:
Without SSL, the hacker sees I’ll be home after 3 pm on Wednesday.
With SSL, the hacker sees 16ur7U0P3w3wR0Gf8956Bi70j16O351690417598Am.

As you can see, there is a clear difference in the information, and it is intended to keep the consumer safe, and the website owner safe.

SSL is sometimes used synonymously with HTTPS, though the two are slightly different: HTTP is the type of connection, and HTTPS tells a computer to encrypt the connection using SSL. It’s great for a site to have. You can tell if it is a secure website by the icon in the top left of your page, directly before the URL. If you see a green padlock, all is good, it is secure. That padlock means that the site owner has verified that they are who they say they are, through a neutral third party that is trusted by Firefox (or Chrome, or Edge, or Safari, or whichever browser you use).

Firefox with SSL

 

 

Where Should SSL Be Used?

The most obvious place for SSL to be installed is on online payment forms, as credit card information can easily be intercepted if there is no security on those pages. While many people agree that you should never send sensitive information (banking, credit card data, personal identifying, etc.) to a website without the padlock icon, any kind of website with any sort of contact with visitors should have SSL. SSL is not just for financial transactions.

Never ever send personal information through a non-secure website.

Any information can be intercepted, and no matter how trivial you may find it – be it ordering a cake or asking for information on cleaning a roof – that information should not be out there for anyone to grasp. Inquiries can contain email addresses, names, dates, phone numbers, house addresses, schedules, and are all pieces of information that those with nefarious intentions can do malicious things with.
All major social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, reddit) are using SSL. All search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo) and all major eCommerce sites (eBay, Amazon, Shopify, Etsy) are on board as well. Even the Government of Canada is in the game. Click here and look for the green padlock yourself.

SSL works the same way on every browser. For users who know about it, the green padlock is a strong signal of trustworthiness. Most computer literacy classes and articles about “how to stay safe on the web” mention it, so an increasing percentage of your customers will be watching for it. Sites that have SSL are perceived to be safe while sites without are increasingly seen to be untrustworthy. Google Chrome and most of the browsers are making a bigger deal of this recently with “this site is not secure” warnings. Do you really want to go on a website where you were warned that it was not safe to continue?

Avoid your website being flagged as dangerous which can scare away potential customers.

Search Engine Placement

Maybe you’re thinking that the only customer contact that you have on your site is a form that doesn’t even get filled out that often. Well, one major reason to get SSL is that Google has a vested interest in making sure that they don’t send their users to fraudulent websites that will steal their information, so they are insisting that websites implement SSL.

Since 2015, SSL-compliant websites have enjoyed a boost in Google search rankings compared to their non-secure counterparts, and we expect Google to enforce this more strictly as time goes by. While implementing SSL is not a guarantee that your website’s ranking will shoot up, it is one more tool of many that will optimize your site and lead to better rankings.


Security is Vital

Imagine this wild scenario: a user tries to visit a site on the Internet. It happens every day, several times a day. Normally, a website request is passed from server to server until one is found that knows which computer (web server) the site is located on. But a malicious server can claim it has the site, and send its own version instead. It might be disguised to look like the same site, but the content is under control of the malicious server, and any content sent through it — like contact information — goes right to the attackers. You will be blamed by your customers if this happens, even though it’s not your fault. Always make sure there is a green padlock to indicate the site is secure.

We want our clients to be successful. At a certain point, SSL is no longer optional. We’d rather you have it before it’s necessary, and not after.

To summarise, your website needs SSL to:
Protect your website visitors
Protect your website content
Improve your Google ranking

Contact us today to make your website more secure with SSL.

About Caitlin O'Hara

Shawn's daughter, Caitlin has been around Radar Hill her entire life, but only recently in a full-time professional manner. In 2017 she began managing the social media accounts, writing articles and newsletters, as well as being an administrative assistant when needed. When not in the office she enjoys cooking (including those samosas that have been huge hits at Radar Hill open houses) and travelling, and plans to move to Scotland in the near future.
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