Ssl Certificates: The Safety Net Of Ecommerce

Surfing the web has become one of America’s favorite pastimes. Information on any subject is literally a click away. Ecommerce, or online financial transactions, has grown at a phenomenal rate as well. According to the Census Bureau of the Department of Commerce, the total e-commerce sales for 2001 were estimated at $32.6 billion. For 2011, this number had grown to over $197 billion. An increase of this caliber could only take place if consumers had confidence in the integrity of the online purchasing process. How is an online shopper’s confidence in the system built? This is definitely a tall order. One of the many ways is through the use of Secure Socket Layer (SSL) Certificates. SSL certificates indicate that information processed through a given website over the Internet will be protected by encryption. This is especially critical for ecommerce, online banking, online investing, etc… in order to provide a level of privacy and protection for personal data that is shared online.

Consider consumers who shop online. They surf the Internet in search of items they wish to purchase. When they are ready to checkout and pay for their purchases online, they must enter some form of electronic payment information to complete the transaction. The majority of these “shopping” websites possess SSL certificates. Think of these as “online security badges” that guarantee the website encrypts all financial data that is processed through the site. If the website does not possess a “security badge” or if the badge is invalid, the web browser will display a message warning that the website should not be trusted.

There are businesses designated as authorities that can provide these certificates to ecommerce websites. If an online shopper visits a website that possesses a certificate from a “trusted” authority, the website will automatically load without any confirmation necessary from the shopper. And the shopper has a pleasant online experience.

There are some things an online shopper can look for on a website to verify that it is secure and their data will be processed safely. When online shopping sites are secure, a lock symbol can be seen either in the URL address field at the top of the browser window or the lower right of the browser window. By clicking on this icon, the shopper can see the actual certificate. The information provided includes who issued the certificate, to whom it was issued, the pertinent encryption level, and the certificate’s expiration date.

If, when visiting a supposed secure site, an error is displayed, there may be problems with the certificate. Some of these problems could be any of the following:

-the certificate was not issued by a trusted source

-the certificate is out of date, or expired

-the site name does not match the name specified on the certificate

If an error is displayed, for whatever reason, the consumer should proceed with caution when shopping on the site. It is important to note that there is never a foolproof guarantee of security on websites. While a website can possess its online “security badge”, this is not a guarantee that the site hasn’t been compromised by hacking or is not infected by a virus that is awaiting its next victim. But as online security measures grow and evolve, these concerns should ease over time.

While nothing can guarantee a trouble-free online shopping experience, these certificates do go a long way in giving online shoppers the peace of mind that they need when sharing sensitive financial data online. Our manner of shopping has definitely changed a great deal over the years. However, online shoppers should continue to follow that time-tested mantra “Buyer Beware”.

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