You’ve opened a merchant account, started to process credit cards, and you’ve decided to take your business online. But when you’ve just commissioned a website, your developer brings up SSL. Confused at first, you decide that the extra cost may not be worth it. However, SSL can be a very important component of an online business.
SSL is a protocol which encrypts any message travelling from your users to your servers. SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer, and it ensures that all information that reaches your website is secure. Now, you might be thinking that your business is too small to be targeted. This is often a mistake, because most attacks are done automatically by pieces of software, with little to no human input, and that software has no idea how big or small your company is. Hackers have developed tools that have one goal: crawl the internet and find vulnerabilities that can be exploited.
What SSL can do for you
To start, all information, including (but not limited to) personal information or payment information, will reach you securely. If you plan on accepting credit and debit card payments through your website, the only way to ensure that your customers’ information is safe is with SSL. Some website hosting providers will require you to have an SSL certificate before you can accept card payments. An important caveat here is that you don’t need SSL to protect payment information if you’re working with a payment processor that accepts credit card payments on your behalf off-site on a web page hosted by your processor.
Still, you might run a website that allows visitors to create user accounts. Important data such as contact information, email addresses, passwords, preferences, and any other information submitted by your customers can still be stolen if an SSL certificate is not present. It will also protect your admin’s information for a WordPress or Joomla website.
Recent headlines have shown how devastating it can be to an online business when users find out that their information is not secure. From a customer’s perspective, an SSL certificate legitimizes your business. SSL is visible in a browser in the address bar on top of the screen, and in the URL of the website. A secure website’s URL starts with “https://” instead of “http://” (with an extra “s”), and, on most browsers, right next to the URL is a security symbol such as a padlock icon, or a word like “secure,” or both. For websites that do not have a certificate, the browser may display a warning, such as text that reads “not secure.”
Getting an SSL certificate for your website
Some hosting providers will offer a shared SSL certificated, which you can order as an extra feature when you purchase one of their packages. The only downside is that this certificate is not in your company’s name, and the browser may display a warning whenever a user visits your site indicating that your company’s URL does not match the information on your SSL certificate.
If you decide to purchase your own certificate, you can contact a Certificate Authority. CAs are companies that offer SSL certificates at a variety of prices, with various features and customer support services. Prices can range widely, with some companies offering free certificates and others charging upwards of $1500 for a one-year certificate. The extra cost may come with better features, better support and numerous tools. It’s important to note that the quality of the encryption is the same for all SSL certificates, regardless of purchasing price.
For more information about SSL certificates, or to sign up for a merchant account, please call (888) 924-2743 or go to Charge.com.