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What Is an SSL and Why Do I Need One?

A person typing on a computer

SSL stands for “Secure Sockets Layer,” and is a method of security for online engagement. Most online security experts will encourage businesses and website owners to obtain an SSL certification for their domain to maximize their online security. Proper website cyber security begins with website code and the computer servers that host them. Next, an SSL certificate secures the data between websites and their owners. In simpler words, an SSL allows you to secure the transmission of digital information.

To understand further how SSL certificates work and their importance, we need to start from the beginning.

History of Secure Sockets Layer (SSL)

If you’re learning about SSL certificates, understand that SSL certificates have been around since the late 1990s. SSL certificates began development during the internet boom when internet services were rolling out and becoming more public in the mid-1990s. You could say SSL certificated were developed nearly the same time public internet was developed. However, SSL’s importance and popularity weren’t realized until 2018 nearly 24 years later.

As the internet grew in the mid-1990s, Netscape identified a need for transport security for web browsers and for various TCP protocols. Naturally, security was identified with the building of websites and the computers that hosted websites in the beginning. However, the security of information that was transferred over the internet wasn’t realized until one year after public internet hit homes in 1993. It took nearly 2 years after the introduction of the public internet to provide a security system that protected information traveling along internet routes in 1995.

When we simplify the internet, we essential have 3 parties. The website, the internet user, and the cables or internet route that connect the two. Hackers discovered early on a vulnerability when data is transmitted between the internet user and website. For example, purchasing products online, although secured at the website and users, is not secured along the internet route without an SSL, and hackers may intercept credit card information used in a transaction.

How An SSL Works

An SSL certificate works by scrambling text and content, (also known as encryption), traveling from your website’s server to your email server or another server. This prevents potential hackers from intercepting understandable messages sent from your website and changing or reading its content. Simple!

The Importance of SSL in 2018

Since information submitted on most websites does not contain sensitive information, it was less of a concern for most businesses for many years. Consider a hacker who intercepts a message “What are your business hours?” This information is useless to a hacker and most businesses did not see the need for additional security where sensitive information was not required. However, not using an SSL became a trend even for websites that really needed it.

The real risk for potential interception was found with banking, eCommerce, employment, and other institutions that required sensitive information being sent over the internet, i.e.: social security numbers, credit cards numbers, birth dates, address, etc.  Many, but not all institutions that require sensitive information over the internet deployed SSL certificates between 1995 and 2018. Those who requested sensitive information but did not participate in SSL certificates increased the illegal success of many hackers. Hens a movement in 2018 was born to standardize SSL certificates for all to protect the public.

Your Website Is Not Secure Message

“This website is not secure”, began showing up for websites that did not employ the services of an SSL in 2018. This messaging was presented by all the major internet browsers by the end of 2018. Moreover, Google and other search engines (SE’s) began issuing higher rankings for websites with SSL certificates in 2018.

But what about websites that do not request sensitive information? The vast majority of websites on the internet are information-based and do not include eCommerce, banking, or other sensitive information transmissions. From a security standpoint, SSL certificates are low on the priority list. For healthcare professionals, only one additional security consideration needs to be analyzed and that regards HIPAA. Will patients use your website forms to submit sensitive information? Regardless, since internet browsers and even SEs began the SSL movement, the messaging, “This website is not secure”, will influence audiences in a negative way, taking away potential business. And, with SSL presence affecting Google’s algorithm, we have to consider SSL’s from a marketing standpoint.

Why Does My Healthcare Website Need an SSL Certificate?

  1. Protect Patient Data
    SSL certification will provide websites with the additional security needed in the event a patient discloses sensitive or personal information with an online form.  You will avoid any unnecessary HIPAA violation even when your website does not request sensitive information – you never know what patients will do.
  2. Limit Negative Marketing
    In addition to protecting the data passing from your dental or medical website, an SSL will also ignore the negative messaging, “This website is not secure.” Having an SSL works as a stamp of authority that tells patients that your services or products are legitimate and secure.
  3. Enhance Your SEO
    Having an SSL-secured dental website, ophthalmology website, or plastic surgery website plays a minor role in Google ranking! With SEO, you take every advantage you can grab.

Start Marketing Your Dental or Medical Practice Today! Today, digital marketing companies use many tools and forums to reach out and SSLs are becoming even more important. At Medical Marketing Guru, dental websites, plastic surgery websites, and other healthcare-related websites are created to respond to all types of screen sizes and devices. Our packages also include WCGA 2.0 (ADA Compliance) and SSL certification to ensure that all data is safe and secure. We are a dental & medical advertising and marketing agency. For more information, call us right away!

Posted on Feb 28, 2022
Image Credit:

File ID 43281318 | © Gyorgy | Dreamstime.com

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