Arin Adamson
By Arin Adamson | Web Dev | October 15, 2015

When do you need SSL/TLS & Website Encryption?

SSL LockWhat is a SSL or TLS? Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) and Transport Layer Security (TLS) are both protocols that are used to encrypt users data on a server. This means all of the data being processed by the server such as emails, website user data, and FTP connections are being encrypted. The encryption of all data through these relays have never been more important. It feels like we see stories in the news almost every day about how hackers are stealing users data by exploiting vulnerabilities in systems and networks. However if the stolen data is encrypted it keeps hackers from reading any of that data without the encryption key. SSL and TLS are the lock that protects our information from hackers.

What is encryption?

Encrypting something is the process of scrambling or discombobulating information based on a set of rules called a key. This process helps to keep what ever you are encrypting private and out of unwanted hands. In the case of data encryption, a data set of ASCII characters are changed based on an encryption key. The resulting encrypted text is called ciphertext. Ciphertext can only be decrypted or converted into a readable form once the cipher text is ran through a decryption key.

When should you use encryption?

When it comes to transferring data across the internet it never hurts to encrypt all of the data being transported. This way you do not have to worry about what you send someone in an email, what your users are sending to the server, or what information is being stored in your database. If you want to know what is the most important data to encrypt though just think about what kind of information a hacker or thief could use to their advantage. The obvious examples of crucial data includes credit card information, transaction data, and passwords. All of these things absolutely must be encrypted, but what about people’s names? Their addresses? These pieces of data can be very valuable to hackers as well. The less data is made easily available to hackers, the more secure the internet will be for everyone.

Do you need an SSL/TLS certificate?

The short answer is yes. Even though your website and server may not be processing data that is considered to be vulnerable data, it only helps your website when you install an SSL. Recently, Google released a statement that they are prioritizing secured websites in their search engine algorithm as a part of their “HTTPS everywhere” campaign. This campaign aims to get websites to use the HTTPS protoctol or HTTP over TLS. By purchasing and installing an SSL certificate you have the ability to start using the HTTPS protocol. You will need to configure your server to redirect users to the secure port after the SSL installation, but after the installation the data transmitted from and to your server encrypted and your website will see a slight boost in Google’s search rankings.

How do I get an SSL certificate for my website?

SSL certificates can be purchased from multiple providers such as GoDaddy, Comodo, and Symantec to name a few. Your current host provider may even offer an option to purchase an SSL through them. Typically purchasing an SSL through your host provider can be a much easier process as they often provide automatic installation. However, in some cases, you may not be able to rekey the certificate for another domain or server. After your install make sure to force encryption site-wide to gain the benefits of using the HTTPS protocol. This is a little more technical and if you are not a web developer I would recommend contacting one for assistance. Digital Reach Agency provides SSL installation services, so feel free to contact us. If you are a web developer, make sure to look over my article, “Forcing Site-Wide SSL” to understand the full process of forcing all traffic data through the server’s secured port.

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