SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) is an industry standard technology used to encrypt data transferred between your browser and a web server. It’s typically used to keep sensitive data private. Websites that don’t use SSL leave themselves vulnerable to “Man in the Middle” attacks – a process whereby data is intercepted as it is transferred between the two parties. This data could be anything, but sensitive information such as login details, personal information or bank details are likely targets. An SSL Certificate is required to use the technology and can range in price from free to a couple of hundred pounds, depending on the type of certificate a company chooses.
Good browsers make it easy to identify when a website uses an SSL Certificate. Google Chrome, for example, displays a closed green padlock in the address bar. Other browsers may just show a closed padlock. All browsers will show the web address as starting with https, rather than just http.
Take a look at the address bar for our own website as an example.
When browsing websites that deal with any kind of sensitive information, such as eCommerce sites (where your bank details could potentially be exposed), be sure to check for the green padlock symbol. This isn’t a definitive sign that the website you’re dealing with is legitimate or has solely good intentions for your data, but it does at least ensure it’s safer from external parties than if you were using a regular http website.