SSL or Secure Sockets Layer is a technology that allows visitors to connect to a website using an encrypted connection. This means that even if someone is able to intercept the messages that the browser and website send to each other, they won't be able to decrypt and understand them.
You can tell whether you are connected to a website using SSL or not by looking at the URL in the browser address bar. Most websites will have an address that starts with http:// in which case the connection is not encrypted. However if the address starts with https:// then the connection is using SSL and is encrypted.
In the past it was generally only sites that dealt with financial information such as taking customer credit card details that used SSL connections. However that is starting to change, and as usual in the web world the change is being driven by Google.
There have been two recent developments that web owners should be aware of:
Together these show the direction that Google is taking, in that they are starting to expect any sites which take any sort of customer information will use SSL. Where Google lead most other web companies will follow so we can expect over the next few months that more and more services may require sites to use SSL.
Fortunately if your site is running on a modern platform then updating it to SSL shouldn't be too much work. The main steps are:
Going forward we are likely to see a lot more sites migrate to SSL and while this will involve quite a lot of work to implement it can only be a good thing if more and more sites secure and encrypt all their users data, not just financially sensitive data. If you want to show your users that you take their privacy and security seriously then getting ahead of the curve and putting your site onto SSL is one way to do this.
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