A few years ago, Google initiated a campaign encouraging website owners to protect their visitors from eavesdropping and snooping by third parties. They are ramping this effort up in stages, beginning with mild indications, to gentle warnings, and up the scale all the way to all-out red-flagged “Do Not Proceed” banners.

It’s a worthy objective, because the path between a website visitor and the website itself can meander through all sorts of machines and providers. Internet service providers, webhosting companies, website speed optimisation services, government organisations, there are many potential ears listening out to what’s happening on the internet and recording it all. Worse of course are the people who shouldn’t be doing it, who are out to get personal and private information to sell or use.

One solution is to simply encrypt all the communication between a website visitor and the website. Anything that is intercepted is meaningless gobbledygook. It’s actually very easy to do. Just about every web browser is capable of being given a special ‘key’ by a website which is used to lock up (encrypt) anything that gets send or received from a particular website. It’s safe, and secure, and it’s known as “SSL” (or Secure Sockets Layer).

The website owner has to do all the work, to obtain an SSL certificate and install/link it to that website. Depending on the certificate, some are linked more tightly than others ie. there are several levels of proof that the website owner can choose from. At the very top, for example, the website owner not only proves ownership of the website, but also proves the ownership of the business that runs the website (independently verified by government appointed organisations).

How do you know if a website is ‘secure’? Just look for the green padlock up in the web-browser address bar at the top of the page.

Green padlock in address bar

PLEASE NOTE: a ‘secure’ website does not mean you can trust what the website contains. Fraudsters and scammers can easily create a website and add an SSL certificate so that your connection to the site is ‘secure’. But they can still be ripping you off, ie. the site is not ‘safe’.  Buyer beware, as always!!

If you manage or own a website yourself, check your site to make sure it is automatically making visitors use a secure connection. For example, if you just put “winchwebsites.com.au” into your web browser, you will automatically be redirected to “https://winchwebsites.com.au” which is the secure connection.

If your site is not automatically secure, talk to your webhosting provider or your web people to find out. Of course, Winch Websites is happy to help & advise if you’re having any difficulties. Feel free to get in touch.

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