What You Need to Know About Website Security Certificates

If you find yourself shopping at a flee market in a dodgy neighborhood, you’re most likely to pay in cash, keep your wallet close and not even consider using your bank card.

The same goes for using untrustworthy websites.

Users are unlikely to share personal data with websites that don’t offer a reassuring level of security. But what guarantees their security?

This is where website certificates enter the picture.

What Are Website Security Certificates?

In short, a website certificate is its ID. It is a digital confirmation issued by a reputable third party (certificate authority, or CA) that the website is what it claims to be, that it belongs to whomever it claims to belong to, and that it is using an encrypted connection.

You might hear several different terms relating to more or less the same thing: SSL certificate, TLS certificate, HTTPS certificate, and SSL server certificate. Websites secured by certificates have a gray padlock in the URL bar. By clicking on this padlock the user can get more information about the website, such as its owner, CA that issued the certificate, its expiry date, etc.

By installing a security certificate on your website, not only do you instill trust in your customers, you are also ensuring that the communication between your website and the user will not be intercepted by cyber criminals, therefore protecting user information and privacy.

How Your Website Can Benefit From Security Certificates

With IBM reporting a whooping $9.05 million as an average price tag, data breaches are something companies should definitely worry about. About 44% of all data breaches reveal customers’ personal data, therefore incurring not only financial cost, but also a reputational one. It takes a long time for a brand to recover from a data breach, especially if the users are directly affected (remember the Ashley Madison scandal?).

It is easy to conclude that security certificates are a must for any website that has two-way communication with its users. Certificates protect various types of user information, such as login credentials, bank account information, card transactions, personal info such as full name or date of birth, etc. The level of protection your website needs will depend on the type of information collected from users. The more data you collect and process, the higher level of protection you will need.

How Do Security Certificates Work?

The authentication process relies on the so called TLS handshake. When the user’s browser attempts to connect to a secured website, the browser requests the website server to identify itself. The web server sends over a copy of its SSL certificate, and the browser then checks if the certificate is valid.

If it is, the browser deems the website as secure and confirms that the connection can be established. The web server then sends a signal to start an encrypted session between the website and the user.

If, however, the certificate is non-existent, is invalid or has expired, the user’s browser issues a warning that the website is not safe to visit. If the user’s device is protected by firewall, they won’t be able to access the website at all.

How Can You Get a Security Certificate for Your Website?

A reliable SSL/TLS provider can help you secure your website with a certificate issued by a highly credible SSL certificate authority. Your provider will also help you choose the type of certificate and features that your website requires, as well as implement the certificate.

You should also look into setting up an automated system for maintaining and updating your certificates, to ensure uninterrupted website availability and the highest level of security.

Securing Your Website and Your Users

Security certificates are an affordable way to protect your assets and your users’ data from cyber criminal. Putting security measures in place is no longer a bonus, but a necessity for any company with an online presence.

Implementing security certificates alongside other preventative measures can save your company up to $1.49 million, according to IBM — customer trust and brand reputation are difficult to quantify, but equally important to protect.