IT security’s more interesting than you might think. Really, it is – remember all that fuss over lost CDs and stolen laptops? It’s also something you should think about carefully for your own website.
As you might have noticed, we recently launched a new security product on our main website: SSL certificates.
These provide the technology behind the padlock that appears in your web browser on some sites – so you’ve probably used an SSL certificate before, even if you didn’t realise it.
If you’re new to them, they can seem a bit confusing. That’s why we grabbed a few minutes with Paul Tourret, UK Managing Director of security company GlobalSign, and asked him to explain what SSL is all about.
These days, there’s a high awareness of online security risks. “One of the biggest worries is data interception,” explains Paul. “Basically, any transmission of data online involves the fear of loss of that data. And there have been a number of public security incidents that have highlighted this to the general public.”
“Then there’s phishing,” he continues, “where imitation websites try to dupe users into handing over information like passwords and credit card details.”
Often, the threats boil down to one outcome: identity theft. And the growing awareness of the risks is forcing websites to up their game. As Paul explains, “website owners need to do more to reassure visitors that their data is safe.”
What’s SSL for?
That’s where SSL (it stands for “secure socket layer”) comes in. An SSL certificate performs two main roles:
- It encrypts data sent between a website and the visitor’s computer. This means it scrambles it so nobody else can read it.
- It proves the identity of a website. SSL certificates are issued by trusted organisations which make sure a website is legitimate.
The encryption makes data very secure. “The technology,” describes Paul, “is very advanced. It would take a ridiculous amount of computing power to crack the encryption and read the text.”
We take that protection for granted on most ecommerce sites. Whenever you send your credit card details online, they should be protected by SSL (our ecommerce package includes SSL as standard for this reason).
If you use SSL on your website, not only will it keep the details customers send you secure – it’ll also make you much less of a target for phishing. While it’s easy to fake an existing website, it’s virtually impossible to fake an SSL certificate.
“Hackers will move away,” reckons Paul. “If they’re going to build a copycat site, they’ll go elsewhere.”
Give your visitors confidence
But it’s the confidence and trust that an SSL certificate inspires which can really give websites a competitive advantage.
“It’s really important,” reckons Paul, “that you can prove you are who you say you are – especially if you sell things online. If you walk down a high street, you can see a shop front. You get a real feeling for whether the business you’re dealing with has substance.”
“On the internet, you can do that using an SSL certificate. When people visit your site, they can then see your identity has been confirmed by a trusted organisation.”
And this can be particularly useful to less well-known brands. Paul explains: “SSL gives smaller organisations the chance to compete on a level playing field with larger, more recognisable competitors.”
Make your credibility immediately obvious
“Your credibility,” continues Paul, “needs to be immediately evident to your users. You can add a site seal [like the one shown here on the right] to the pages on your site and publish security notices explaining what your site does to protect its customers.”
You can also use one of the new breed of SSL certificates – like our Extended SSL certificate – that turn the browser bar green. Unlike the padlock, the browser bar is right at the top of the screen, so your visitors can see immediately that your site is secure.
“These things aren’t done enough,” thinks Paul, “particularly by smaller websites.” So if you do more to advertise the security measures your website takes, it doesn’t just keep your existing customers safe – it could even help you attract more of them.