Google plans to reward sites that are secure

By: John McGarvey

Date: 15 August 2014

Secure website - SSL{{}}

Google's busy making changes to its ranking algorithm again. This time, the search giant has decided that websites which use a secure connection as standard should get a boost in search results.

Historically, secure connections have only been used to transfer sensitive information, like credit card details. The secure, encrypted connection is signified by https:// at the beginning of the website address, and a small padlock shown somewhere in your web browser.

The argument for more security

There's a good argument for using secure connections more widely. Perhaps most significantly, they're an effective way to prevent 'man in the middle' attacks. These occur when an attacker intercepts data as it travels between a user's computer and a web server.

When a website uses a secure connection, attackers may still be able to intercept the data. But because it's encrypted, they won't be able to understand it.

As well as protecting data from attackers, this change may also represent something of a shift in attitudes around security.

Between Edward Snowden's revelations and the data breaches that hit the headlines month after month, awareness is slowly growing about the need to protect data online.

A significant impact

Jason Hart, VP at SafeNet, reckons this change by Google will have a significant impact on how organisations secure their websites:

"Every company wants to rank favourably on Google, so it’s in their best interest to ensure web pages are encrypted."

And although using encryption can hit website performance, these days the affect is negligible. "There are now high speed encryption technologies available that mean cost and speed need no longer be an issue," continues Jason.

"So there really is no excuse for any data to be transmitted or stored in plain text."

No need to panic ... yet

If your website doesn't currently use a secure connection, there's no need to panic. At present, the same is true for the majority of websites.

In its blog post summarising the changes, Google also confirmed that, initially, security will have a very small influence on search rankings. However, it may become a more significant factor in time, so it's a good idea to think about how to add a secure connection to your website.

To secure your website, you need an SSL certificate. The SSL stands for secure sockets layer. SSL certificates are available from most web hosting companies, and are sometimes included with web hosting services.

However, setting up an SSL certification can sometimes be tricky. If you're ready to make your site more secure, you might want to consult your web developer or IT supplier.

Although you don't need to act now, this latest move by Google definitely means it's worth finding out what it will take to make your website more secure.