The Internet has made buying things extremely easy. You simply log on to a vendor’s website, enter your credit card information, and a package will eventually show up at your door. Want the new bestseller? Amazon’s got you covered in a couple of days.
Criminals can exploit weaker websites to illegally obtain credit card and billing information and then use that data to commit identity fraud. Such culprits can employ a variety of tactics –decoding login information or exploiting vulnerabilities in networks to get unauthorized access – in order to get their hands on sensitive data. With this in mind, it’s up to e-commerce businesses to do everything within their power to ensure such data is protected.
According to aggregated research, approximately 15 million U.S. residents annually are victims of identity fraud. Collectively, these individuals suffer $50 billion worth of financial losses, or more than $3,000 per person. While the FBI succeeds in apprehending some of these identity thieves – the bureau says that between 2008 and 2013, more than 1,600 convictions, $78.6 billion in restitutions, $4.6 billion in recoveries and $6.8 billion in fines have resulted from its investigations – the fact remains that at best, identity theft is a huge hassle and at worst, a financial quagmire. With so much at stake, do you really want to risk impacting your customers in such a way?
With phishing scams and online fraud on the rise, businesses must establish trust amongst their customers by adding several layers of security that will ensure all sensitive data is protected. One such tool for data protection is the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate, a transaction security standard that protects customers’ personal information – such as credit card numbers, social security numbers, and login credentials – by encrypting that data and transmitting it over a secure online channel.
Each SSL certificate is made up of a key pair and verified identification information. When a customer starts a transaction on a SSL-protected website, the server shares the public key with the browser/client to establish the encryption process and a unique session key. The client then confirms that it recognizes and trusts the issuer of the SSL certificate in a process called the SSL handshake. This begins a secure session that protects message and server security. SSL provides websites with three things customers associate with security: the lock icon on the bottom of the browser, “https” in the address bar instead of “http,” and the green-shaded address bar.
There are dozens of companies that provide SSL certificates, including some of the top names in the business – Symantec, GeoTrust, Comodo and Thwarte. There are several types of SSL certificates available, from basic encryption to business-level; choosing the correct one for your business means thoroughly understanding your business needs. High-profile e-commerce sites should consider extended validation (EV) certificates, in which the Certificate Authority (CA) checks the right of the applicant to use a specific domain name and conducts a thorough vetting of the organization. Different packages from vendors offer various encryption levels (from 40 to 256-bit encryption strength), warranty guarantees, vulnerability assessments, extended validation and daily malware scans.
Once you’ve established the basics of what you need for your e-commerce website, there are a few more business factors to weigh, beyond the obvious consideration of pricing:
- Is live support available 24/7/365 via phone, email and chat? Dedicated phone support is a must for occasions when the Internet is down.
- Do they have auto-renew capabilities? You don’t want to be left hanging with an expired SSL certificate.
- Are letters of reference from satisfied clients available?
In today’s fast-paced business world, establishing and maintaining confidence from your customers is paramount in building a mutually beneficial, loyal relationship. With more and more business conducted online, it’s of the utmost importance that businesses integrate the strongest security solutions to protect and secure their websites. It only takes one security breach for your customers to lose confidence in your company. Once that happens, restoring it can be an insurmountable task. Your hosting provider can help you determine what level of SSL certificate is best for keeping your e-commerce business safe.
Nikole Haiar is responsible for the marketing, strategy and execution for Hostway’s. retail and white-labeled cloud applications, which includes websites, email, online marketing, SEO, business productivity and web security tools. She has over a decade of experience in technology-focused B2B marketing