Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) is a widely accepted technology for establishing a secured connection between a web server and a web browser. Thawte puts it in a much simpler way to understand “An SSL certificate is a bit of code on your web server that provides security for online communications. When a web browser contacts your secured web site, the SSL certificate enables an encrypted connection. It’s kind of like sealing a letter in an envelope before sending it through the mail.” SSL protects sensitive online data as it travels from one site to another.

Here is how SSL works

To be able to use SSL to secure information you must have a hosted domain. Your domain host provider supplies a special key, the Certificate Signing Request (CSR) which is then integrated within the SSL certificate for verification of the domain in question and its usage. The SSL certificate is then installed into the hosting server and secures the domain.

It automatically updates once its installed. Once your domain is secured, sensitive information on your website will be protected. If you have ever visited a website with an https://  in the address bar instead of the normal http://  you were creating a secure connection via SSL.

Why SSL Certificates are important for your website

It ensures that all the data passed between a web server and a web browser remain private and secured. Confidential information like credit card numbers, health data, financial accounts, social security numbers and even personal addresses must be kept private when shared online, hence the need for SSL certificate.

Every website that requests for personal information must have a secured server. Look out for that extra security feature before you share your personal data with any website. Some websites display their certificates on their sites to make it easy for customers to know that their information is secured with them. When in doubt, don’t share.

SSL Certificate is especially useful for eCommerce sites to establish trust and confidence with your customers. It guards the online store from possible web threats and also builds an effective online reputation. Prospective customers will not hesitate to do business with you knowing that their private data are safe from hackers and cyber squatters.

Other things you should be doing to beef up the security of your website

Choose to update your website constantly 

Popular web tools, scripts, plugins and apps are constantly being updated but you have to make the conscious effort to update when you use any of them on your site. Improvements, security and bug fixes are meant to make the tools even better. Sometimes security breaches get fixed and are released as updates. It’s important to keep your software or tools up to date to prevent data loss in the future.

Hackers will always attempt to find vulnerabilities in your website and use them against your business. Updates are some of the best ways to prevent attacks in the future.  If you are using WordPress or the many other CMSes out there, you will be notified of available system or plugin updates when you log in. Don’t ignore them.

It pays for add an extra layer of security

Most robust and standard online platforms have extra plugins or tools that extend the core functionality of the application. Search for those extra tools or plugins that can make your site even more secured. It doesn’t hurt to make your website even more stronger against external threats. If you are using a content management system, there are possibly lots of plugins out there to make your site even better.

Use only trusted sources for your plugins. You don’t want to install threats that appear as protection. You can also check your CMS installation for common security flaws with tools and plugins like Security Review for Drupal and WP Security Scan for WordPress.

Everyone should be using complex passwords, but nobody does.

This is probably one of the biggest threats to website security. Website administrators should know be using the strongest passwords they can imagine but unfortunately some of them just don’t bother. The server and website admin areas should be protected with the most complex password possible.

On the customer side, you can enforce stronger passwords by requiring certain number of characters before the user can proceed. That way, they will be forced to provide a better password than common ones like “1234″,”qwerty”or “password?”. This will help protect their personal data in the long run.

File uploads is one of the biggest weaknesses of websites

Most malicious files are uploaded by the web-masters themselves. Yes, you may be uploading corrupt files to your server without knowing it. If files on your personal or work computer are infected with trojan horses, they will definitely end up on your server and harm your site or expose your customer info to the public.

Make sure your computers or laptops are protected from viruses or malware. Some files could contain a script when executed on your server completely opens up your website. You don’t want that. Your best option is a completely protected personal computer.

Be savvy and keep an eye on the server side of your site. You can prevent or stop attacks by scanning your logfiles for intrusive codes on regular basis. Generally you should be aware of what’s going on inside your site. Stick to the basics and your website will be secured from attacks.