You might have noticed when typing a URL to a browser that some websites have https:// and some have http:// before the domain name. The “s” after HTTP means that the website has an SSL certificate.
An SSL Certificate (Secure Sockets Layer) establishes an authenticated and encrypted link between a web server and a browser. In layman’s terms, an SSL makes sure all data transferred between the website server you are interacting with and your browser is secure and private. SSL’s are important to protect your personal and financial information from potential hackers.
Websites that require you to enter financial information like a credit card or bank account information need to have an SSL certificate to acquire PCI compliance. If your website experiences a security breach and is found not to be PCI compliant, you can be fined. These fines can range anywhere between $5,000 to $500,000+ from credit card and banking institutions. Aside from the financial burden, companies can experience a bad business reputation and/or loss of card processing privileges.
An SSL and the lock icon that accompanies it signals to your users that it is safe to send their personal information through your website. It is a trust symbol for your user and also search engines like Google that scan your website. Google has stated that having an SSL certificate is the easiest thing a website can do to boost their SEO or ranking on google.
When you hit a submit button on a nonsecure website hackers can attempt to intercept the data. This is called a “man-in-the-middle attack”. Hackers install listening software on a website's server and when a user enters their data the software sends your information back to the hacker. When you have an SSL certificate installed, your browser and the web server will bind together so that no one but you and the website you are on can see your data.
Even if you have a small business or website investing in an SSL certificate will help keep you safe and establish trust with your customers.