Different businesses use their online presence for different operations and applications. While most will have some level of eCommerce or online sales associated with their websites, others may be more focused on building community and interacting with customers and clients.

The reality is that most corporate sites and many personal websites have a need to build community engagement as well as to prevent cyber security attacks and risks for users. This is certainly the case with online social media sites with LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and even Pinterest all sporting the iconic green padlock that signifies a secure website using SSL technology.

Why these companies are focused on data encryption and security gets to the heart of what anyone should consider when trying to create a unique online presence and community. While it will be essential if you wish to take credit or debit card payments directly as it is required by the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards, it will also be a major consideration for bloggers and social media startups.

To understand why, it will be critical to take apart a few perceptions that people have and also to understand how these perceptions drive online behavior. With the increasing awareness of SSL, including the padlocks and green address bar as well as the https instead of http designation, it is easy for your visitors to quickly assess how secure your website is in regards to sharing information.

What is SSL Really About?

Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) is the universally accepted method to encrypt data that is moving between the server and the browser (client). Think of it as securing information between the two to prevent anyone from seeing it, reading it, stealing it or modifying it.

It uses a set of keys, which are mathematically related strings of numbers that are randomly generated. The encryption is at 256 bit, which is virtually impossible to hack or break using modern computer capabilities now and well into the future.

It is like a cipher where there is a code in use. While everyone can see the encoded message, only the person with the private key that matches the public key used to encrypt the message can successfully decrypt it so see the information.

This is important for obvious reasons for an eCommerce site. No one would want to have their credit and debit card information going through servers without encryption. It would potentially be like handing out copies of your credit card to random strangers.

On the other hand, personal information of the right type is just as valuable to hackers. If you aren’t securing this information and your website is asking people to sign up for newsletters or register to be able to post comments, what type of personal information are they providing?

If you are asking your community of readers or commenters to provide personal information such as:

  • Name
  • Date of birth
  • City or location
  • Email address
  • Phone number
  • Generating a password and user ID
  • College attended
  • Where they shop
  • What their favorite products are
  • Marital status
  • Information on payment to participate in the community

Any and all of this information is valuable to hackers, particularly if they are involved in email phishing. With this information, they can connect with your community and create emails that appear to come from your organization asking for verification or further information, giving the hackers the valuable information they need.

Good For Ranking Results

Google has recently started factoring in the presence of SSL certificates in their search engine algorithms. While not a major component, ever little bit helps if you are using a structured SEO program to try to move up the search engine ranking page results.

When your visitors to the site are leaving because they notice there is no SSL in place you will not see much of a movement regardless of how effective or engaging your blogs may be.

The only consideration when the use of this type of information network security would not be relevant is if you don’t encourage comments or interaction from your community. However, it is really a challenge to develop an online community if there is no feedback and no ability to engage with your audience and create a base that returns to your blog or website to interact and share.

Building Trust and Assurance

Consumers and people engaging with others online through social media, blogs and websites are more savvy than ever when it comes to the very real risks of a data breach. They are actively seeking out the websites that provide the protection of an SSL certificate.

If you are not primarily online with an eCommerce business, there are options for cheap SSL products that are just pennies a day. There are even some free options out there, but be very careful with self-signed certificates.

These are certificates that aren’t issued by a recognized and trusted Certificate Authority. Instead, they are issued by the website owner. It boils down to the certificate saying “trust me because I say I am trustworthy.” Many browsers and devices do not recognize these types of certificates, resulting in security warning messages to your community, which certainly will not build trust and assurance and can damage your website’s reputation in a very short period of time.

About the Author:

Vivek Ram is a Technical Blog Writer from Comodo.com He writes about information security, focusing on web security, operating system security and endpoint protection systems.