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What is an SSL certificate?

by Simon Langham ON Jan 15, 2017

You will be hearing a lot more about SSL Certificates this year for two main reasons.

  1. Google have made it clear that their intentions are to rank websites with SSL certificates with greater priority than those without.
  2. The latest version of the popular server management system called cPanel’s now provides free SSL certificates for each domain managed on the system. You will need to talk to your hosting company to see if your website can benefit from this.

So what is an SSL certificate?

An SSL certificate is an encryption key that enables your browser and the hosting server to send all data within an encrypted file. There are many types of certificates with varying degrees of encryption strength.

Any website that transfers sensitive data such as passwords and financial data should have an SSL certificate to hide sensitive data from hackers who could be snooping your network or the connection. These websites include e-commerce or client access portals. You should also consider having an SSL certificate for you CMS access such as WordPress, Drupal or MODx.

You can identify websites with SSL certificates by the green padlock in the top left of your URL bar which can very depending on your browser. The colours of the padlock generally mean...

  • If the padlock is green, then all elements of the webpage are encrypted.
  • If the padlock is orange, then only some elements of the website will be encrypted which means caution should still be taken.
  • If no padlock is visible or it’s grey, then the page is not encrypted meaning all data you send or receive such as credit card details and passwords are not secure.

Websites with SSL certificates will have a website address starting with https:// rather than http://. The ‘S’ means this is a secure connection. Don’t worry. If the server is setup correctly, you should automatically be redirected to the secure connection when you enter the website address.

A word of warning

An SSL certificate does NOT verify that a website is official! We have seen many occasions where people have suggested that the green padlock means that the website is official and not owned by hackers. This is not the case! It's very easy for someone technically minded to setup a secure connection. An SSL certificate only encrypts data from the client to the server and does not mean the site owners can therefore be trusted with that data.

If you have more questions about SSL certificates, please contact our team at theteam@unumbox.com