Sending information across the internet works much like sending a letter through the mail. You write down the information you want to send and drop it into a mailbox; from there, your letter is picked up by the post office, then delivered to the recipient. However, the way that “internet mail” works differently than “regular mail” is that instead of addressing your envelope to the person to whom you’re sending a letter, you drop your letter in a “mailbox” specific to that recipient — as in, an online form on their website or an e-store checkout. While there is still a similar service to a “post office” that assists with transmitting the information from your computer to the recipient, this “post office” already knows the destination of your “letter” based on where you submit it.
So what does this have to do with SSL certificates and Google? Well, consider the information you submit through an unsecured online form as like being written on a postcard. If someone was able to “intercept” your postcard on its route between the mailbox and the recipient, they would have no trouble viewing the information you wrote down. As such, you certainly would not want to include sensitive and/or highly personal information on a postcard.
An SSL certificate functions as a “security envelope” for your information — but even better! Not only does it “envelop” your information with a layer of protection that prevents anyone from viewing it as it makes its way across the internet, but it also “encodes” the information within this envelope, and only the recipient of your message has the key to decode it. So even if a hacker does manage to intercept your message, all they will see is seemingly random gibberish.
Websites that provide this security feature receive a special label — you may notice that certain websites have a green “lock” icon near their URL in your browser’s address bar. This indicates that when you drop your “letter” into that website’s “mailbox,” your information will be submitted securely. If there is an issue with a website’s SSL certificate, you may encounter an error message and/or a red “Not Secure” label in place of the green lock. This message is there to alert you that, while you may expect that website to keep your information secure, their services are not working correctly and you should be careful about the information you submit.
So, long story short, you will see a label in your address bar in one of two situations:
- Green Lock – A website has an SSL certificate, providing a secure connection
- Red Warning Symbol – A website’s SSL certificate is expired or mis-configured, resulting in an insecure connection
However, in February of this year, Google announced that by early July 2018, its Google Chrome browser (which is by far the most popular browser today) will soon alert users if any website they browse does not use a secure connection. This is different than the Red Warning Symbol, which indicates an issue with a website’s SSL certificate. The “Not Secure” label indicates that a website lacks an SSL certificate altogether. You may wonder if and how this change will effect you and your website.
As of today, if you visit a site without an SSL certificate, the URL is displayed normally in the address bar, without a label. Come July, such sites will now have a “Not Secure” label in the address bar (at least, for users of Google Chrome). In a world where concerns over online security and privacy continue to mount, this “Not Secure” label may cause a lack of trust among visitors to your site, even if your website does not collect any sensitive data online.
On the bright side, an SSL certificate can help boost your position in search results. While Google is generally quite secretive about the algorithm it uses to rank websites in search results, they have specifically indicated that installing an SSL certificate on your website will definitely provide a small boost in search rankings. Plus, the presence of an SSL certificate often represents the “tiebreaker” in determining which of two similar websites to rank higher.
As you can see, Google makes it very clear that they place great importance on website security. Not only do they encourage installation of SSL certificates by offering a boost in search results, but they also plan to make it more apparent to users when a website is lacking a secure connection.
Faster Solutions would be more than happy to answer any further questions you might have about SSL certificates, your website, and Google, as well as assisting with the installation and configuration of an SSL certificate for your own website. Contact us today!