The Web’s Move to SSL

These days, there is a lot of talk about cyber security, secure web browsing and tips to keep your information safe. One of the best ways to do this is to stick to websites that use an encrypted connection. Browsing completely secure can only truly be accomplished through websites using something call SSL, or Secure Sockets Layer. This allows an encrypted connection to be established between the web browser that you’re using, and the website you’re accessing. This kind of connection is usually indicated by a green lock and HTTPS in the URL bar of your web browser.

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A note about URLs starting in https: a green https is good; a red https, usually precluded by a warning that the certificate shouldn’t be trusted, is questionable at best. The way that ssl ensures a secure connection is by installing a certificate in your browser that is signed by a trusted entity, such as VeriSign. When this occurs, you’ll access the page and the lock and HTTPS will be green as shown above. However, anyone can create certificates, and if they aren’t signed by a trusted entity, your browser will warn you.

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This doesn’t mean that your connection isn’t encrypted, it still is and no one will be able to see your information in between your computer and the website’s server. What it does mean, is that the person or company who owns the website isn’t necessarily to be trusted.

In April, about 1/3 of all web traffic was encrypted, in large part due to Google, Facebook and Twitter. With Netflix planning to make the switch to HTTPS, some research indicates that this could jump to as much as 2/3 of all web traffic by the end of the year. On the subject of Facebook and Twitter, though, is yet another type of encryption that further secures your data: end-to-end encryption.

This mostly relates to private messaging between you and someone else. Examples include email, Facebook or Twitter messages or even text messages. End-to-end encryption allows all your data to be encrypted not between you and the website you’re using, but between you and the person you’re messaging. This ensures that Facebook or Twitter or Google, etc. can’t see your private messages. While this advanced privacy tool isn’t yet available for most services, there are browser extensions and add-ons that can provide this for you. As far as texting and even phone calls go there are a number of apps available for both iOS and Android that are designed to provide private communication.

So while truly secure internet access isn’t inherently provided with an internet connection, it is relatively easy to secure your web activity by making sure that your data is encrypted. This could be through secure sites, browser add-ons, or mobile applications, but whichever method(s) you use can go a long way in ensuring your data stays private.