Cybersecurity tops the list of online concerns for website owners and users alike.
In recent years, large-scale data breaches affecting major banks, retailers, and other leading service providers have made headlines around the world.
Reassuring users that their data is safe from hacking, identity theft, and other kinds of online crime is essential for keeping customer trust.
Learning how to make a website secure with SSL and HTTPS protocols is an essential step for protecting sensitive data collected while doing business.
If your site collects or uses sensitive data in any way, it’s important to know how these two protocols work and how to secure a website and customers from the latest round of cyber-attacks.
Ways to secure a website
Implement SSL encryption
Installing an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate is crucial for website security. To do so, you typically purchase an SSL certificate from a trusted certificate authority (CA) and then follow these steps:
- Generate a certificate signing request (CSR) from your web server.
- Submit the CSR to the CA, who will issue your SSL certificate.
- Install the SSL certificate on your web server, configuring it to encrypt data.
SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) encryption safeguards data in transit, making it unreadable for potential attackers, and ensures a secure connection between users and your website.
Incorporate multi-level login security:
Employ multi-factor authentication (MFA) and strong password policies to fortify user access, reducing the risk of unauthorized entry.
Establish a consistent backup routine:
Regularly back up your website data and files to mitigate the impact of data loss due to cyberattacks or technical failures.
Ensure all software is up to date:
Keep your website’s software, including the content management system (CMS) and plugins, current with the latest security patches to address vulnerabilities.
Use a web application firewall (WAF):
Deploy a WAF to filter and block malicious traffic, preventing common web-based attacks such as SQL injection and cross-site scripting (XSS).
Be an effective site administrator:
Stay vigilant by monitoring your website for unusual activity, conducting security audits, and promptly addressing any security issues that arise.
Update plugins and extensions:
Regularly update and maintain all plugins and extensions, ensuring they are secure and up to date to prevent potential vulnerabilities.
Stay informed about emerging security threats and best practices and be prepared to respond swiftly to new challenges to keep your website secure.
What websites need an SSL Certification?
Not all websites need an SSL certificate, but having an SSL certificate is essential for encrypting data such as:
- Email addresses
- Usernames and passwords
- Personal documents such as health records and tax returns
- Payment information
- Website subscription information
- User registration data
For websites dealing with payment information or financial transactions, cyber security is of the utmost importance. Security experts maintain that an SSL certification for an e-commerce site is necessary.
An SSL or TLS certificate adds an extra layer of website security to any communications passed between browser and server. Certificates are deposited with the server and accessed whenever a website with HTTPS is visited. Site owners can choose from three different types of SSL certificates, depending on the nature of the site and the kind of information it collects from users.
|Types of SSL certification||Description|
|DV SSL Certification||Certificates verified by domain validation (DV).|
The lowest level of authentication where the certifying authority only validates domain ownership.
No additional information about the company or applicant is verified.
Quick and cost-effective.
Ideal for websites with minimal confidential data and less concern for transaction security.
|OV SSL Certification||Certificates verified by organization validation (OV). |
Provides more thorough validation, verifying domain ownership and additional details about the company’s ownership and filings.
Increases transparency and trustworthiness.
Takes more time and costs more than DV certificates.
Suitable for websites dealing with lower-level data such as email addresses for marketing.
|EV SSL Certification||Certificates verified by extended validation (EV).|
Offers the highest level of authentication and security.
Requires a detailed review of company information and can only be issued by authorized certifying authorities.
Time-intensive and expensive, best suited for websites handling highly confidential information like credit card data.
What is HTTPS?
Nearly everyone who spends time online has encountered the letters HTTP, which typically appear at the start of every web address in their browser. HTTP, or Hypertext Transfer Protocol, is a universal, text-based protocol that allows clients—individual pieces of hardware or software—to connect with a server and retrieve data for display. HTTP is an unsecured protocol, which can mean that data transmitted between client and web server could be vulnerable to hacking, phishing, and other kinds of cyber security threats.
HTTPS changes that. This protocol stands for “Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure,” which tells all potential site visitors that the protocol transmitting data between clients and servers carries an additional layer of security. Like an SSL certificate, a website with the protocol HTTPS instead of HTTP tells users that data transmitted between the site and the web browser is encrypted and secure. The HTTPS protocol works with the SSL certificate. When a visitor accesses an HTTPS site, that activates the certificate and triggers encryption of the data being transmitted.
How do I know if a website is secure?
- Along with the HTTPS protocol attached to a site’s URL, easy visual cues can tell a visitor whether a site is encrypted with an SSL certificate. Sites validated by OV and DV certificates have a green padlock next to the HTTPS, which may also appear as green. Sites with the most secure EV certificates can also include a green search bar. The padlock icon can also tell users information about the state of the site’s certificate. In 2018, the developers of Google Chrome removed some of the browser’s positive security indicators, opting instead to display “not secure” notifications on unsecured websites. The padlock icon can also be used for other things. For example, a yellow padlock can indicate that a previously issued SSL certificate has been corrupted.
- New websites can be configured from the start with HTTPS protocols and SSL certificates, and existing ones can be reconfigured or converted to support these additional security features. But converting an existing website to a more secure version in this way can give rise to some unanticipated problems, since a search engine may recognize the site with HTTP and the one with HTTPS as two different websites.
- To avoid problems arising from the existence of both an HTTP and an HTTPS site, experts recommend taking time to align all accounts and other activities that could be affected by the switch. That can include reconfiguring all aspects of a site including plugins, analytics, or ads and setting up the correct redirects to make sure that clients get to the desired online location. Switching to HTTPS can also affect existing links on the old HTTP site. Bluehost offers its customers a free SSL certification service.
In an age of increasingly sophisticated hacking schemes for stealing or damaging a user’s data, an SSL certificate and HTTPS protocol tell visitors your site is trustworthy and secure and that their most sensitive data is safe with you. To further block your site from hackers, you can also try downloading security plugins that will help to protect your website.
Common questions about website security
Regularly updating your website’s software and plugins is essential. As a best practice, check for updates at least once a month. Always ensure to apply security patches immediately after they’re released. Outdated software can leave vulnerabilities open to cyberattacks.
Yes, several legal and compliance requirements relate to website security, depending on your industry and region. For instance, websites dealing with personal data might need to adhere to GDPR in Europe or CCPA in California. It’s essential to consult with legal professionals to understand specific obligations for your site.
Absolutely. For e-commerce sites, prioritize end-to-end encryption, especially during transactions. Use a reputable payment gateway, regularly update and patch software, and employ multi-factor authentication for admin access. Conduct regular security audits and ensure PCI DSS compliance to protect customer payment data.
Yes, regular backups are crucial for website security. Backups ensure that in the event of a cyberattack, data breach, or even a simple technical glitch, you can restore your website to its previous state. Aim for daily backups and store them in a secure, off-site location to maximize protection.