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A Quick Intro to SSL Certificates

Need an SSL Certificate with your website design?  Contact Demtron today!

Written by John Demar
Published: June 21, 2008

Some time ago, I talked with a friend in Waukesha, Wisconsin about Internet security and we started discussing SSL certificates.  I consider this person pretty technology savvy, but he wasn’t sure why an SSL certificate is important.  So I asked him, "When you do your banking online, what’s the first thing you should look for before signing on?"  His answer... "I don’t know... a login and password box?"

I shook my head.  Fortunately, we were talking on the phone, so I don’t think he noticed me picking up my jaw off the floor during that extra-long pause in our conversation.

An SSL certificate is one of many forms of security that are available on the Internet and the Web.  When installed and used on a connection over the Web, this certificate will encrypt all communication with that connection.  It’s a little like scrambling technologies used in government communications and even cell phones.  Without an SSL certificate, all your communication is sent via “clear text” that’s readable by anyone that may be snooping in on your connection.

When you’re surfing a website that’s protected by an SSL certificate, the gold-colored lock icon should appear in the header or status bar of your browser.  This indicates that your connection is encrypted and makes it extremely difficult for anyone to read your communication.

Any site that accepts or sends confidential information should use a certificate.  If a site exchanges data involving credit cards, resumes, business records, health records, financial history, loan applications or the like, it should use an SSL certificate.  If you visit a site with which you exchange data like this, look for the golden lock in your browser before sending anything confidential.

What’s more, if you have a website that shares this kind of data, it needs an SSL certificate.  Like many Web users, I’m reluctant to provide personal data to any website that doesn’t employ this encryption technology.  If your site accepts payments, resumes, orders, or financial records from visitors, this certificate is a must.

Getting back to my friend in Waukesha...  When I told him about the gold SSL lock and gave him the above explanation, he said, "Oh, yeah, the gold lock. I always wondered what that was. I’ll have to mention that to my wife since she does all the on-line banking and bill payment stuff."

Let's hope that he remembers what that lock is for!

(SSL certificates are usually pretty easy to have installed and generally inexpensive.  We can help review your site to determine if you need one and install it - just give us a call!)

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