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Encrypt All the Things

From phishing and man-in-the-middle attacks to government surveillance, the Web faces an increasing number of threats every day. Gone are the laudable ideals of the Internet’s humble beginnings; in are the pragmatic concerns of incredibly powerful technology with unprecedented reach.

One result of those concerns is a vast movement to push all websites to encrypt all traffic. The movement was started by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to defending privacy and civil liberties in the digital world. Today, browser vendors are leading the charge through the home stretch.

Currently, you get a warning in most browsers when visiting an unencrypted website that asks you to log in. Various forms of this warning appear in Chrome, Firefox, and Safari.

Not secure warning in Chrome, Firefox, and Safari.
Address bar treatment of unecrypted login pages. Note the lack of subtlety in Safari’s treatment.

Starting in July, Chrome will display the warning on all unencrypted websites. Mozilla has said that is the future for FireFox as well, though not specifically when. Apple hasn’t said if it will take the same measure, but it’s almost certain that they will (perhaps, when they ship their new OS this fall 😍).

Google, of course, has long been a significant player in this movement. Back in 2014, they leveraged their search engine to promote encryption by declaring fully encrypted sites would get a boost in search engine ranking.

Frankly, it’s time your site was encrypted.

Thankfully, it is now easier than ever to encrypt your site. In the last year, free, auto-renewing site certificates have become commonplace due to two major developments.

First, a new free certificate authority called Let’s Encrypt launched. It is backed by the EFF, Google, Mozilla, Facebook, Automattic, and many more. Anyone technically competent enough can use the open source Certbot to automate free certificate renewal from Let’s Encrypt.

Second, a partnership between the world’s largest certificate authority and the world’s largest hosting software platform (Comodo and cPanel, respectively) offers auto-renewing free site certificate management from cPanel’s easy to use server software. This tool is only available to hosting providers who are running cPanel, of course, but it allows administrators to quickly enable free site certificates for all accounts across an entire server.

Between these two developments alone, free site certificates have become table stakes for any modern hosting provider.

If you’re building a site now, make sure you shop for a hosting provider that provides an auto-renewed site certificate. If you have an existing site that is not encrypted, contact the people who are supporting it and ask them about implementing a site certificate on your site.  

(Photo by Scott Webb from Pexels)