why you should always use an ssl certificate

Why You Should Always Use an SSL Certificate

You’ve probably heard the precautionary adage “safety first” as someone verbally qualifies their course of action before adhering to said safety measure. In terms of internet and website security, SSL certificates are the virtual “safety first” adage and action. This is why you should always use them.

Unless you plan to play it fast and loose with customer data and website security, which will give you a pretty bad reputation with your users and visitors. Not to mention a poor SEO ranking on Google.


Contents

  1. What is an SSL certificate?
  2. How does your SSL certificate work?
  3. Why do you need an SSL certificate?
  4. How do I get an SSL certificate?

What is an SSL certificate?

So, what is this virtual representation of this protective adage? What is an SSL certificate? An SSL certificate is a security protocol that encrypts all data between a web server and web browser.

That means when you use Google (or any major browser) to connect to your favourite hosting website (*cough cough* HOSTAFRICA), all the information exchanged between your computer and the server can’t be read by other computers. Don’t worry about humans reading it, since most of us don’t speak in computer code.

A Google graph showing the percentage of pages loaded with an SSL certificate by platform
A Google graph showing the percentage of pages loaded with an SSL certificate by platform

Think about it as English being your first and only language. If someone speaks to you in Mandarin, you won’t know your finger from a bar of soap, whether they give you the message in writing or clear speech. It works exactly the same when your data is encrypted. The server and web browser communicate in a language only they know, making it safe, secure, and ideal for a little bit of gossip (if computers were capable of such a thing).

SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer. You can identify if a website has this certificate by looking at the URL. A secure website will start with https:// as opposed to the uncultured http://. As you may have guessed, the s stands for secure.

Some browsers may also show a little padlock next to URL which indicates pretty much the same thing. You can even click on the padlock, then select Connection is secure and see if the site’s SSL Certificate is valid.

HOSTAFRICA SSL certificate in browser
HOSTAFRICA SSL certificate in browser identified by padlock

How does your SSL certificate work?

SSL technology works by encrypting data that is being transferred between networks. Only the receiver of the data has the key to unlock the code to access the encrypted data. The protocol uses symmetric and asymmetric encryption.

Asymmetric encryption uses a public key to scramble the data that is being sent out. Once the data is received on the other end, the receiver will use their private key to unscramble the data. If the data is intercepted before it is unscrambled with the private key, it’ll show a bunch of gibberish.

So, an example of your connecting with a secure website will work like this:

  1. Your browser sends a message to a server (let’s say HOSTAFRICA) that it’s trying to connect
  2. Your browser also asks that our server identify itself first (“Hands up, knave!”)
  3. Our server then sends a copy of its SSL certificate to generate a symmetric session key (reaching for or permit…)
  4. Your browser verifies if the SSL certificate is legitimate. If it concludes that it is, your browser lets our server know everything is in order
  5. After that, our server sends a virtually signed acknowledgement to start an SSL encrypted session
  6. No shots fired, we’re all friends, and you’ve just become complicit in computer gossip.

This may seem like a lengthy process, but it happens in milliseconds.


Why do you need an SSL certificate?

Mainly because you want to keep user’s data secure and show that your website can be trusted. If you ran an online store that did not have an SSL certificate it would not incite safety and security in your customers. They’d be worried someone might steal their banking details, personal information, or any other data they provided your website.

In fact, Google now flags websites without an SSL certificate as “Not secure”. This is enough to make most users bounce immediately.

not secure warning Google

Think of it as doing shopping in busy street market. You’re just trying to get some artisan spices for your stew, but you could end up being pickpocketed without even knowing it. It works the same way without an SSL certificate. Your data could easily be intercepted, and you would be none the wiser. Not until you get a message that you’re taking a trip to South America while watching television on your couch.

Some of the valuable information that an SSL certificate protects is:

  • Banking and card information
  • Login details
  • Personal information like address, full names, etc.
  • Contracts or legal documents
  • Proprietary information
A Google graph showing how Google has increased encryption for their products over time
A Google graph showing how Google has increased encryption for their products over time

How do I get an SSL certificate?

Well, you’re in luck. We can hook you up with a secret password for your website to make your website’s gossiping escapades as secure as they come. Our SSL certificates start from R249 per year. SSLs can only be issued by CAs (Certified Authority’s), which we are. Not to mention the free SSL we throw in if you decide to create your own website.

HOSTAFRICA's SSL certificate page
HOSTAFRICA’s SSL certificate page

If you’ve been operating like the Wild West when it comes to website security, we recommend you give our SSL options a look. If you haven’t created a website yet at all and are looking to start one up, take a look at our guide on how to start a WordPress blog.


Conclusion

All in all, that little padlock next to your website’s URL will provide a ton of value. Not will only will it keep the bad actors out, it’ll keep good vibes in. Nothing quite like hanging out somewhere and not having to tap your pockets. Well, an SSL certificate is the equivalent of just that, and that’s a feeling of security that has intangible value.


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