Since we published this article in November 2015, things have moved on considerably. Read our latest blog on the subject for a more accurate answer: Is 2017 the time to go HTTPS with an SSL certificate?
Last year in our blog we wrote about how Google were starting to prioritise secure websites (https) over unsecure websites (http) in search rankings. This was part of Google’s wider campaign for https to be used everywhere, and for all information on the web to be transmitted securely.
Since then, the support for secure websites has grown, with several other big names, such as the US Goverment and WC3, pushing for every website to use an SSL certificate. Creators of the Firefox web browser, Mozilla, has even announced that they are planning to stop displaying non-secure websites to people using Firefox to browse the web.
So what exactly is an SSL certificate?
A SSL (secure sockets layer) certificate helps provide more security for website visitors. As well as providing verification of the owner of the domain, it includes a key, which encrypts any data – such as credit card details or form responses – sent to or from the website, so that it cannot be accessed by third parties.
Why do websites need SSL certificates?
A secure connection is required for websites that take payment information, and it’s likely you’ll have seen the padlock and trust marks indicating a secure connection on ecommerce websites. Lately though, more websites, including Facebook, the BBC and Google, have started encrypting their entire websites, even if they do not sell online. This is for a number of reasons:
- Secure transfer of all data. Any data, not just credit card details, can be intercepted online, so it’s important to protect the information contained within emails and social media messages as well.
- Authentication. SSL certificates provide verification of the owner of the site, helping to protect against phishing attacks, where scammers attempt to impersonate a site in order to collect personal details.
- Verification of information. For news sites, like the BBC, an SSL certificate helps protect their content from getting altered by third parties. It also provides verification to visitors that the information on the site is genuine.
Does my business need an SSL certificate?
For businesses who simply run a brochure website, there is no need to rush out and purchase a SSL certificate. At this point, the Google ranking implications are still small, and Firefox has yet to stop displaying non-secure sites.
If, however, you are considering redeveloping your website in the near future, then security is an increasingly important consideration, particularly if you will be transferring customer data through contact forms or logins.
For help with this or any other web development issues, please get in touch.