A couple of months ago, Google announced that its web browser, Chrome, would begin to display a "Not Secure" tag in the URL bar next to the domain of websites that do not have SSL certificates. In the first phase of this new treatment, the tag will be gray and relatively unassuming. However, in the final phase, the tag will be bright red and include a bright red yield icon with an exclamation point on it.
Until now, SSL Certificates were truly optional. While it made sense for large businesses and websites that handle sensitive information (like credit cards, user logins, etc.) to use them, many small businesses or non-profit organizations didn't need to. That is no longer the case.
What the heck is SSL?
First of all, SSL stands for "Secure Sockets Layer." An SSL Certificate allows the data transmission between your website and your users' computers to be encrypted. This prevents third-party observers (i.e. hackers) from stealing your data (or the most interesting parts of it) while it's in transit. Have you ever noticed that some websites you visit begin with "http" while others begin with "https"? The "s" at the end stands for "secure" and signifies that the website is using SSL.
Ugh, fine, I'll get SSL. How do I do it?
Easy. Just head on over to Walgreens and pick one up. They're usually up near the register next to the Us Weekly Magazines that have a photo of Brad Pitt walking out of some building, probably wearing a fedora and looking kind of homeless.
Actually, not really.
SSL Certificates are authenticated by trusted entities and are acquired by going through various levels of verification. Once purchased, the certificate is installed on your web server and that ominous red warning of impending doom turns into a much friendlier looking green padlock next to the word "Secure."
Or just call your friendly neighborhood web host and developer and they can do it for you!
Phew. That was easy.