IT security 101: Why SSL certificates are so important

If you’re a regular internet user, you’ve undoubtedly noticed the increase in websites with a https address, rather than a http. The S stands for “secure” and shows that the website has an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate.

A few years ago, search engines began cracking down on websites that didn’t have this protection for users, while web protection software also began flagging them as a security risk. Afraid to be penalised and have less website visitors, most companies now have SSL certificates installed.

This is good news for businesses and web users who are at an ever-increasing risk of malware as hackers get smarter and more innovative than ever before.

What is an SSL certificate?

Security certificates establish a secret connection between two parties. They use clever algorithms (such as the Diffie–Hellman key exchange) to encrypt communication, including actions and messages, so others can’t see them.

Certificates can be used wherever there is sharing of information, including via Virtual Private Networks (VPNs).

Unfortunately hackers are also getting better at breaking certificates; including SSL certificates where they attempt to add spy bots to a website so they can harvest data from unsuspecting visitors. This is why the Diffie–Hellman algorithm is often used in conjunction with “Salt” security. Salt constantly changes the “flavour” of a connection, which reduces the possibility that it can get hacked.

How do you get an SSL or other security certificate?

Security certificates for VPNs and apps can be added to your computer by creating a certificate and a private key on the server. This should be done by an experienced IT professional, as it’s not a simple process and can be disastrous when done incorrectly.

SSL certificates for websites are now provided for free by most hosting providers because they are considered an industry standard.

It’s important to know that you are getting a genuine certificate and not one that has been re-issued from another domain. This is a serious issue that has plagued some digital security companies and caused widespread problems for companies and their website visitors alike.

The technical complexity of certificates is not something a user (be it a staff member or web visitor) ever sees, but it does ensure their safety. And keeping people safe when they are using your IT is paramount to building trust, complying with data collection regulations, and protecting your business’s proprietary information.

Do you want more expert advise on protecting yourself and your data?

Make sure you read all of our articles under the “IT Security 101” series:

  1. Anti-virus and Web Protection
  2. Physical Security
  3. Virtual Private Networks
  4. Firewall
  5. The Essential Eight of Cybersecurity 

For more information on how to increase security using certificates in your business, call Empreus IT Support on (02) 6189 1322 or contact us now.