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When browsing the internet, you may have noticed that some websites’ addresses begin with http://, while others start with https://. One extra letter in the website address means a lot in terms of security. When using HTTPS websites, you can be sure that your data is encrypted and shared safely. This technology is based on a Introduction to Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), or its newest iteration, Transport Layer Security (TLS).
First of all, SSL protects your guests’ data while in transport, which is especially important for websites that collect sensitive information or accept online payments. Secondly, you must make sure that your website has an SSL certificate if you want it to rank higher on search results. Google has been ranking HTTPS websites higher since 2014. Encryption is an important ranking factor because it has a direct impact on your visitors’ security.
In this article, we will share some tips on how to secure a site with an SSL certificate so that you can protect your visitors’ data and improve your Google rankings.
What Is an SSL Certificate?
An SSL certificate is a small cryptographic data file that links and encrypts the connection between a browser and web server. Thanks to this encryption, all data transfers between the browser and server remain private. “If a website doesn’t use the HTTPS technology, any information that you provide in forms can be easily intercepted by hackers,” explains Mack Keller, a web developer at an essay writing services review website Best Writers Online.
For example, hackers may install undetected spyware on the server that hosts a website, and this spyware will record all the information that visitors type on the website. Thanks to an SSL certificate, hackers won’t be able to access the data transferred between the server and your browser because it’s securely encrypted. Given that online forms are often used to collect personal information, including email addresses and credit card information, having an SSL certificate is rather a necessity than just an option.
How Do SSL Certificates Work?
- First, an SSL certificate uses a so-called handshake process to establish a secure connection between the server and browser. Your browser sends a URL request. For example, it happens when you enter a URL address in your address bar. Once the request is sent, the connection between your browser and the server is secured, and the server transmits encryption details, including the type and version of encryption.
- A request to initiate an SSL connection is called a client hello. The server responds with a server hello, sending a copy of its SSL certificate and a public key.
- Once you’ve received the necessary data from the server, your browser determines whether the website’s certificate can be trusted or not. All browsers have lists of trusted SSL certificates that were verified by Certificate Authorities (CAs). Certificates are controlled by various security companies, including DigiCert, GeoTrust, and Sectigo.
If a website’s certificate is signed by a trusted CA from your browser’s list, it means that this site can be trusted. “When the certificate is verified, the browser also uses the public key from the server to create a new symmetric public key. From now on, all the data is encrypted,” explains Lacy Rees, a security specialist at an essay writing services review platform Online Writers Rating.
- The server sends a signed acknowledgment. After this, the server and browser initiate an SSL-encrypted session.
- Once an encrypted SSL session is established, the browser and server can share data that has already been encrypted. The symmetric key created by the browser is unique for each specific SSL session, and it’s used to decrypt data during this session.
Tips on Protecting Your Visitors’ Data with an SSL Certificate
- Make sure that your server doesn’t support insecure renegotiation
Hackers may inject arbitrary content into an encrypted stream of data by using the SSL and TLS Authentication Gap vulnerability. Most popular vendors have already patched this vulnerability, but we recommend that you double-check renegotiation settings and disable insecure renegotiation.
- Disable support for weak encryption ciphers
Most web servers support very strong (256 bit) and strong (128 bit) encryption ciphers, but some websites may also support weak ciphers, as well. We recommend that you disable weak cipher support as soon as possible. You just need to configure your server with this line:
- Use HSTS to protect your domains
The HTTP Strict Transport Security (HSTS) technology enables you to protect your website by automatically converting all HTTP links to HTTPS. After somebody visits your website for the first time, they won’t be able to access it again unless the link is verified by a valid certificate. This way, you can stop hackers from leading your visitors to phishing websites by using insecure links or stealing insecure session cookies.
- Use HTTPS on every page of your website
Nowadays, not only should you protect your users’ credentials and other private information, but you should also use SSL and HTTPS on every page served. Always-On SSL (AOSSL) turns on HTTPS on every page to prevent session hijacking so that users can have an encrypted online connection constantly, not just when they are on login or checkout pages.
- Use Secure and HttpOnly flags to protect cookies
- Use Extended Validation certificates
Extended Validation (EV) certificates are rigorously validated according to the highest authentication standards that are in use today. This way, your visitors can see that the connection is secure, the site is owned by you, and it’s not a phishing website. EV certificates have proven to increase consumer confidence and conversions with the highest level of authentication.
- Put your server to the test
It’s always a good idea to make sure that your HTTPS server’s SSL/TLS certificate is installed correctly, that it’s serving the required CA intermediate certificates, and that your server is not using outdated TLS protocols or weak cipher suites. We’ve partnered with Qualys SSL Labs to run your server through deep analysis, and we recommend using the SSL Server Test anytime you make any changes to your server.
An SSL certificate enables you to protect your visitors’ data from hackers while in transport, and it’s also necessary if you want your website to rank higher in search results. This way, you can avoid negative browser warnings and indicators. Now that you know how to secure a website with an SSL certificate, don’t hesitate to shop for SSL and buy it.