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Is my website suddenly not secure?

Last year, Google Chrome users may have started noticing a message on some of their favorite websites – “Not Secure.” While this is new to Chrome, it isn’t anything new in general, and certainly isn’t dangerous. Or is it?

Various iOS devices started showing the same message earlier this year, and Firefox has the same message (though not as obvious). What does this “Not Secure” message mean? To put it simply, the message shows on any website that you are connecting to without the use of an SSL (Secure Socket Layer) connection. Even more simply, it means that data you pass to that website is not encrypted.

Why is this a big deal?
Unencrypted data can be looked at by anyone (with the right knowledge and technology) between a visitor’s computer and your website.

Why is this NOT a big deal?
Most of the data sent to/from unencrypted websites on a daily basis is harmless and not at all sensitive. For instance, my ISP can feel free to know that I clicked to view movie times or read an article about a new piece of technology.

No, but really, is this a big deal?
It can be. Even if your site features harmless content and doesn’t ask the end-user for any personal information, the (relatively) new messages warning those end-users can be intimidating. And that can hurt your overall brand. It’s more about perception than in reality, but in the case of consumer trust, perception IS reality.

My website is saying “Not Secure.” What should I do?
In the past, the cost of an SSL certificate often outweighed the utility of having one. These days, however, there’s really no reason to avoid installing an SSL certificate. Check in with your website hosting provider to find out how much it would cost to add it. It should be a fairly minimal charge. If your website accepts any information from a site visitor that might be considered sensitive (Social Security, credit card info, medical history) then an SSL certificate is a must-have.

Kalvin Kingsley is the VP of IT for KK BOLD. He is pretty sure the NSA is reading as he types this right now. Hi Bob-from-the-NSA! How’re the wife and kids?