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Website Security Solutions

Better Website Security and Google Search Rankings for SMB’s with Always On SSL.

Created: 18 Aug 2014 • Updated: 26 Aug 2014 • Translations available: Français, Deutsch, Español
Charla Bunton-Johnson's picture
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Websites using https boosted in google rankings

Often considered the backbone of global business, SMBs are a unique mix of entrepreneurial drive, daring ingenuity and highly customer-centric practices.

SMBs need to compete in the virtual marketplace with players of all sizes, where square footage doesn’t matter; they are forever seeking ways to stay competitive. One arena where they have a greater chance to level the playing field is in the virtual marketplace.  They have more opportunities to take advantage of a variety of digital platforms, from Web-based businesses and social media outlets to SEO to mobile devices, all for a faster time to market. The Internet allows SMBs to use their limited budgets in ways that they can impress customers and help their brand become more relevant and recognized—even amidst enterprises with extensive budgets and brand

What can SMBs do to stay competitive and maneuver quickly in the digital world, without compromising data security or breaking their wallet?  The answer is “Always On SSL” from Symantec, also known as HTTPS everywhere. It’s ideal for SMBs working online, and supported by major digital players like Google, PayPal, Facebook, Twitter and Microsoft. Keep reading to learn how this powerful form of SSL will completely secure your data in transit and help improve search result rankings.

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THE COMPLETE SSL SOLUTION: BROUGHT TO YOU BY THE LETTER “S”

Imagine locking the front door to your home but leaving the back door wide open. That is essentially what happens when websites use common HTTP SSL, otherwise known as “Intermittent SSL”, to protect only certain pages, like logins and transactions. Some companies think they are protected against data theft and hacking by only applying "Intermittent SSL” to one or two areas of their site but they are really leaving the rest of their site completely exposed and vulnerable to attacks such as Sidejacking.

How can you protect every page of your website, and keep your customers safe? With Always On SSL from Symantec.

ALWAYS ON SSL MEANS ALWAYS SECURE AND ALWAYS CONFIDENT.    

As a member of the Online Trust Alliance and CAB Forum, Symantec has always advocated Always On SSL, which means that each and every page on a website has an HTTPS:// (i.e. SSL certificate), and not just the login and transaction pages. Moving from an "http” site to a fully “https” secure site is the only way to 100% ensure that every interaction with every page of your website is completely encrypted—from the moment a visitor arrives to the moment they leave. Protecting login and transaction areas alone doesn’t prevent hackers from stealing the cookies that store a user’s session. If those cookies are stolen, attackers can use them to recreate a website session and gain access to all kinds of sensitive data—over and over again. Slidejacking (using Firesheep) and SSL Strip are common types of attacks that prey on vulnerable sites with limited security. In the end, unprotected pages and their associated cookies negate any effort and expense put toward protecting login and transaction areas with Intermittent SSL.

SSL secure sites get ranking boost

 THE FINANCIAL IMPLICATIONS OF DATA BREACHES

To put end-to-end data protection in financial perspective, in the US alone, in 2012, almost 35,000 data breaches occurred—with over 100,000 data breaches worldwide. It cost US businesses $5.4 million to find the causes of these breaches, including direct expenses like data forensic experts and hotline support for free credit monitoring and indirect expenses like in-house investigations and communications and lost customers.* Malicious or criminal attacks were the main causes of data breaches, and they could have been reduced, prevented and even anticipated with Always On SSL. 

* 2013 Cost of Data Breach Study: Global Analysis, Ponemon Institute

GOOGLE IS NOW GIVING MORE VALUE TO SITES THAT ARE PROTECTED WITH ALWAYS ON SSL OR HTTPS—AND SO SHOULD YOU

One major endorsement of Always On SSL –specifically end-to-end HTTPS encryption—came from Google on August 6th, 2014 via its Online Security blog. The plan is to give more weight—or better search ranking results—to sites that are fully HTTPS encrypted. And the reason is pretty simple, according to Google Webmaster trends analysts Zineb Ait Bahajji and Gary Illyes. “We’d like to encourage all web site owners to switch from HTTP to HTTPS to keep everyone safe on the web. A big part of that is making sure that web sites people access from Google are secure.” Their message couldn’t have been clearer: “We hope to see more web sites using HTTPS in the future.”  It’s about encouraging sites to change the way they protect themselves for the better—and to fully protect data in transit all over the web. You can see a full Google presentation on the importance and implications of HTTPS here.

HTTPS HELPS SMBs COMPETE BETTER

Protecting your site with HTTPS can help SMBs compete better in the virtual marketplace by:

• Improving brand recognition in Google rankings—especially against larger companies who may not have embraced HTTPS. At the very least, SMBs can benefit from a level playing field by adopting HTTPS.

• Making the most of better search results, Symantec’s Seal-in-Search™ can lead to a higher click-through rate by displaying the Norton™ Secured Seal—the most recognized trust mark on the Internet—right in the search result.

• Strengthening brand and reputation by showcasing your commitment to online security.

• Increasing transactions and conversion rates.

• Protecting the entire user experience and all data in transit—not just at login or during a transaction.

• Using Extended Validation for the highest visible display of trust.

Symantec has a variety of proven Right for Me SSL solutions from our multi-brand portfolio. We can help any kind of business choose the “Always On SSL” solution that best meets your needs—from a single SSL cert to Wildcard and SAN certificates to Extended Validation certificates, which displays the green bar. All of our certificates feature the highest level of encryption, protecting data in transit such as identities, cookies and financial information.

ALWAYS ON SSL ISN’T NEW, BUT ITS TIME HAS COME

For years Always On SSL has been advocated by industry leaders, including Microsoft, PayPal, Facebook and Twitter. Together with Symantec, they are part of the Online Trust Alliance (OTA), whose mission is to enhance online trust and empower users, while promoting innovation and the vitality of the Internet. “It is incumbent on all of us to work together to implement web security best practices to protect consumers from harm,” according to the OTA’s white paper. “The general state of online security throughout the industry has reached a tipping point, and websites must change in order to preserve end-to-end trust and consumer confidence. One of the most important benefits of Always On SSL is customer reassurance.

WHAT YOU CAN DO FOR COMPLETE WEBSITE SECURITY

Here are some steps you can take to ensure end-to-end protection with “Always On” HTTPS:

1. Enforce Persistent HTTPS on Every Web Page

Secure clients’ personal information, identities, and cookies by having https enabled for every web page. Learn more here.

2. Ensure Correct Implementation of Your SSL Certificates

To enable HTTPS, you should use a valid SSL/TLS certificate from a trusted certificate authority (CA) like Symantec, telling your customers that the domain’s identity has been verified and authenticated by a trusted source.   Learn more here.

3. Set the Secure Flag for All Session Cookies

A session cookie can be set with an optional “secure” flag, which tells the browser to contact the origin server using only HTTPS whenever it sends back a cookie. This will also enable reliable, proactive HTTPS protection and reporting.

4. Enhance Security and Trust with Extended Validation Certificates

To reassure customers of a website’s value and security, use an Extended Validation (EV) SSL certificate from Symantec. The green address bar provides an organization’s name right in the cert and visually makes customers feel more secure of a website operator's identity reassuring your clientele they are safe to proceed on your website.

For more insight, try these articles:

Google Rewards Secure Websites with Higher Search Ranking (Blog)

Google smiles on safer connections (Internet Retailer August 8, 2014)

Understanding Always On SSL and SEO (Symantec | Connect January 2014)