What Is A Website Certificate, And Why Is It Important?

If you ever make purchases online, you must know how to quickly determine if the website you are about to buy from is secure.

A secure connection is an encrypted exchange of information between the website you are visiting and the browser you are using. Encryption of data is simply a process of converting the information you type in (your name, address, and credit card number) into an unreadable format that only the receiving website can decipher.

Encryption is done through a document the website provides called a website certificate. When you send information to the website, it is encrypted at your computer and decrypted at the website to prevent hackers from intervening and stealing your credit card information.

So how do you know if a site has a certificate and a secure connection? There are two things to look for. Just note that these two checks only apply to the web page where you actually enter your credit card information, NOT the entire site itself.

Once you are on the actual order page, look for a tiny yellow padlock in the bottom right corner of your web browser. Depending on your browser version, the Security Status bar may be located on the top of the browser and to the right of the Address bar. The padlock should be closed (locked).

Next, look at the actual URL. It should begin with “https” rather than the standard “http.” If you are on a website and you see these two things, the site will have a certificate.

Another way you can view a site’s certificate is through your browser’s menu options. In Internet Explorer, go to File, Properties and then click on the Certificates button. The same dialogue box will then come up for you.

If you ever get a warning that there is a problem with the website’s certificate, it could be due to a number of problems such as the names on the certificates don’t match up with the website or the certificate has expired.

If this happens, you may want to call the company and place your order by phone rather than going through their website.

Finally, make sure you check out every company’s Privacy Policy. Even if they have a secure checkout process, they could give or sell your information to third party companies.