SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) plays a key role in establishing a secure connection between a website’s server and a visitor’s browser.
This encrypted connection ensures that sensitive data, such as personal information and financial details, is transmitted securely. But is it necessary to have an SSL certificate, and what happens if you don’t have an SSL certificate?
In this article, you’ll learn if you need an SSL certificate, the different types available, and a step-by-step guide on how to set up or install one to keep your domain secure.
- An SSL certificate is essential for encrypting sensitive information exchanged between your website and users, ensuring the secure transmission of personal or financial data
- SSL certificates provide credibility and increase your trust rate in search engine rankings
- In today’s digital world, a secure socket layer is a necessity for all websites to help prevent security breaches and ensure trust
- Learn more to understand why you need it, the types of certificates available, and how to install it
Do I Need SSL for My Domain?
SSL certificates are essential to ensure the data transmitted through your domain is secure.
By using encryption, a Secure Socket Layer scrambles the data transacted between internet users and domains. Without it, the data would be exposed, so hackers can intercept and steal it, while with it, if an attacker gets a hold of it, they cannot use it.
Some of the advantages of SSL encryption include:
- Encryption levels of up to 256 bits that protect sensitive information
- It protects your website from phishing attacks and data breaches and reduces the risk of man-in-the-middle attacks
- Displays the green address bar, which shows your site is secure
Why You Need an SSL Certificate for Your Domain
Having an SSL certificate is a key part of website security best practices. Here are some reasons you should install one for your domains:
Key Benefits of SSL Certificates
- Keeps data secure. It provides data security by encrypting information exchanged between the website and its visitors. That means passwords, financial information, and other sensitive data are protected from unauthorized access.
- Enhances trust between customers. SSL certificates build trust with website visitors by securing user information and protecting against potential data breaches. This level of trust contributes to increasing the business’ reputation.
- Meets PCI/DSS requirements. SSL certificates secure financial and credit card data from potential data breaches. Establishes a safe shopping experience, thus being required for eCommerce websites.
- Authenticates your identity. When installed on a server, SSL certificates activate a secure connection, ensuring the integrity of data transfers.
- Improves rankings in search engines. SSL certificates authenticate websites, enhancing the site’s credibility. Search engines like Google prioritize sites with high credibility, giving businesses with SSL certificates a competitive advantage in SEO.
Does Every Website Need SSL?
While technically some websites may not require an SSL certificate, having one is recommended for every website, regardless of the type.
A few years ago, it was thought that SSL certificates were only intended for eCommerce sites. These days, whether you sell products or take personal information from users, data security belongs to every website owner.
There are some factors that may help you decide if a certificate is right for your website. If your website has any of the following elements, chances are you need one:
Checkout Process in eCommerce Websites
If you own an eCommerce website, you collect customer information like personal data, physical addresses, and credit card details.
Websites that fall under PCI/DSS regulations because they collect online payments are required to have an SSL certificate installed on their website.
Do You Need an SSL Certificate with Paypal?
No, you don’t require an SSL certificate if you make PayPal payments. However, it is still recommended because it increases the reputation of your website.
If your business authentication website requires your customers to log into a portal, you need to secure their login information.
Thus, it requires an SSL certificate to prevent malicious actors from getting access to information. For example, banks or insurance institutions
Forms that Collect Sensitive Information from Website Visitors
If your website has a form that asks users for personal or sensitive information, you need an SSL certificate that will prevent hackers from intercepting and getting a hold of the data.
The information can be email addresses, phone numbers, physical addresses, and, of course, credit card information.
eCommerce Web Server
Sites running eCommerce require an SSL certificate to ensure their customers’ payment data is safe. Even if your users have to use a payment gateway like PayPal, you still collect data like email addresses or data for deliveries.
Having SSL certificates for your eCommerce store will make it more secure and reduce the risk of the data being accessed by unauthorized users.
Do You Need an SSL Certificate for WordPress eCommerce?
Yes, your WordPress site will require one if you run any eCommerce activity. SSL certificates can get pricey, but you can get a free SSL.
Do You Need an SSL Certificate for a Shopify Store?
Yes, as with any eCommerce website, you need an SSL certificate to secure the transactions your customers carry out on it. Thus, the SSL certificate makes sure that your online store is secure and that it protects your customers’ data. It builds customer trust and your site’s reputation.
What type of SSL certificate do you need?
When you are ready to purchase or get a free SSL, it can be confusing because of the multiple options available. The type of certificate you need will depend on the level of authentication you need, whether you need to cover multiple subdomains, or only the primary domain, and other factors.
Let’s explore the different types of SSL certificates:
Domain Validation SSL Certificate
Among the different types of SSL certificates, domain validation is the most basic type. Keep in mind that this type of certificate only covers the root domain. DV certificates are easy to obtain because they only require you to verify ownership of your domain.
Because these only validate the domain and not the business, they’re not recommended for eCommerce websites.
Organization Validation SSL Certificate
Organization Validation (OV) SSL Certificates provide a higher level of authentication. These certificates not only validate the domain but also confirm the legitimacy of the business ownership of the business operating the website.
The certificate authority performs the essential checks and verifies that the organization meets the specific criteria. This validation process helps assure visitors that they are using a secure website. The OV certificates are represented by the HTTPS:// at the beginning of the URL.
Extended Validation SSL Certificate
Extended validation SSL certificates provide the highest level of SSL security. An EV SSL certificate triggers browser displays like a green address bar and the company name to show exact validation legitimacy.
The EV validation process verifies legal existence, operational status, and exclusive domain name rights. These certificates are perfect for banking and eCommerce websites by prioritizing trust and security.
Do you need an SSL certificate for each domain?
No, you don’t need an SSL certificate for each of the multiple domain names. You can get a Wildcard Domain certificate. Wildcard SSL certificates allow you to secure multiple domains and an unlimited number of subdomains.
This certificate combines the features of a wildcard SSL and a multi-domain SSL. It is a great choice for companies that hold multiple domains, like regional domains, each with a number of subdomains.
What Happens If You Don’t Have an SSL Certificate?
Without an SSL certificate, your clients’ name, major credit cards, and personal information are vulnerable to theft by hackers, posing a significant risk to your domain security and privacy due to the absence of an encryption protocol.
The SSL certificate plays a crucial role in safeguarding both client and website owner information, offering protection against phishing scams and various threats.
In essence, without an SSL certificate, your site lacks the necessary security measures, making it susceptible to unauthorized access and compromising the overall safety of your online business and platform.
Users often don’t trust sites without SSL certificates, especially if they deal with sensitive customer data. The issue is that search engines do too. For instance, Google, in its efforts to protect users from insecure websites, considers a site without an SSL certificate a risk and its search rankings won’t rank it.
How To Install an SSL Certificate?
The steps to install an SSL certificate will vary depending on whether you are installing it on a dedicated server or on a shared server. Different hosting providers can also vary in their required steps.
In this section, we’ll explore general steps common to all processes and give you a couple of examples of installing an SSL certificate on a dedicated server or on a shared server.
What should I know before installing an SSL certificate? Before uploading the SSL files from your device to the website’s server, you need to follow a couple of steps:
- Generate a Certificate Signing Request with the Certificate Authority you want to purchase or obtain the certificate from.
- The CA will send you the SSL files, usually in a ZIP archived folder, to your email addresses.
- Once you have the server SSL certificate and the CA bundle, you can start the installation.
Where to install the SSL certificate will depend on your server type and installation method.
For instance, let’s explore an example of how to install a self-signed SSL on your dedicated server or on your Ubuntu 18.04 VPS.
This example assumes you have an Ubuntu or Apache web server.
Step 1: Confirm that Apache is installed and your website is running
Step 2: Create the SSL certificate (remember, this example is of a self-signed SSL)
Step 3: Enable port 443
Step 4: Enable the default configuration file for SSL
Step 5: Restart Apache
Step 6: Testing encryption
You can find more instructions in our Guide to How to Install an SSL Certificate in a Dedicated Server.
Installing an SSL certificate on a shared hosting account requires different steps:
Step 1: Log in to your Cpanel account, login credentials then click SSL Manager.
Step 2: Under Certificate Signing Request, click on “Generate”, “View” or “Delete SSL Certificate Signing Requests”.
Step 3: Select Generate a New Certificate Signing Request, then fill all of your information
Step 4: Purchase an SSL certificate from a trusted certificate authority or CA.
Step 5: Install the SSL certificate on the CPanel.
You can find detailed instructions in our Guide to How to Purchase and Install an SSL Certificate on a Shared Hosting.
Final Word: Should You Invest in Adding an SSL Certificate to Your Domain?
Adding an SSL certificate to your website is essential for keeping sensitive user data secure, enhancing user trust, and improving overall domain security. It establishes a secure connection, encrypts data transfers, and authenticates your website.
This digital safeguard not only protects the user’s browser information but also contributes to a positive user experience, safeguarding against potential cyber threats. In conclusion, an SSL certificate is a fundamental measure of modern website security and user confidence.
Next Steps: What Now?
- If you haven’t decided where to host your website, check out our list of the best hosting providers
- Assess the security best practices applied by different hosting providers
- Create a website security policy aligned with the hosting provider
- Explore how to protect your domain
- Choose a paid or free SSL certificate