Not long ago, Google announced that starting at the end of January 2017, an update to Google Chrome will begin marking any site that collects sensitive data such as passwords or payment information as "Insecure" in the browser's address bar (the part of the screen where you enter the web address you're trying to visit) unless the site utilizes SSL. If you've ever noticed the little lock icon that appears in many browsers, or an address beginning with https:// instead of http://, then you've got an idea of where this new indicator will be located. At this point, though, you may be asking yourself "Ok...so I can see when a site isn't using SSL? But what is SSL?"
What is SSL?
The accronym SSL expands to Secure Socket Layers, a name which does little to demystify the term for most users. It's a pretty easy concept to understand though! Basically, SSL is just a security or encryption protocol which makes sure that sensitive information like the previously mentioned passwords and payment details are encrypted and sent from clients (your web browser, email client, messaging app, and so on) and whatever servers the information is intended to reach (such as a web server, email server, banking system, etc.) in such a way that no matter what machines and wires it passes through in between, it is not readily readable by any interloping machinery or software.
To be completely accurate, though, it's important to understand that while everybody commonly refers to this technology as SSL, it has since been replaced by its even more secure descendant, TLS or Transport Layer Security. Most vendors that sell SSL certificates are actually offering TLS technology, as it has become the new standard and is required for PCI compliance and other regulated business processes. If you're ever unsure of which you're purchasing, double check the documentation provided by the vendor to clear up any questions, and always opt for TLS when available.
How does this affect me and my customers?
Google's plans to more readily point out the sites which don't utilize this technology is part of a larger plan to make the web safer, and to build more trust between end-users (customers) and the sites and businesses that serve them every day, including you! They, along with dozens of other major technology companies such as The Electronic Frontier Foundation, Facebook, Cisco, Shopify, Mozilla and others have joined together to push this technology to every corner of the web through initiatives such as Let's Encrypt and HTTPS Everywhere.
They're starting off mild, just letting users know when a site isn't secure, but they've also indicated that these indicators will become more prevalent and visible as time progresses. Any business that doesn't secure their site potentially runs the risk of alienating their customers because of this! Would you store your money in a bank that didn't have a safe, or hand your credit card to the guy selling sketchy looking goods on the street corner? Of course not! And neither will your customers. They want the security they deserve.
Good news for Liftoff Customers concerned about security:
The good news for Liftoff customers is that out of the box, Liftoff offers the ability for customers to utilize our shared SSL/TLS certificate technology on all of their Liftoff shops and sites, protecting the data passed back and forth between the browser and servers, at no additional cost beyond the standard monthly Liftoff subscription fee. Soon, Liftoff will also allow for custom SSL/TLS certificates as well, giving you even more options for serving secure content and data to all of your customers and employees.
While no security scheme is 100% foolproof, we at Launchpad LLC, the creators of Liftoff, do all we can to protect your data with industry standard practices as well as other security technologies such as hardware firewalls and carefully selected technology partners and vendors, and the use of SSL/TLS to protect you and your customers data is a big part of that.
For additional information about Liftoff and the many ways we make eCommerce easier and better, check out our blog, our customer community, or find out more about our many features and our easy to understand plans and pricing today!