Chances are, if you spend any time online at all, you’ve seen some little warnings start popping up in your browser. Both Chrome and Firefox are now flagging sites that don’t offer secure connections, also known as “HTTPS” connections. But what the heck does that mean for you and your author site?
Let’s explore the basics of internet security and what you need to know for your author website.
What Is HTTPS, Anyway?
HTTPS is simply “hypertext transfer protocol secure”—computer-geek-speak for the secure version of the type of communication procedures that let the internet as we know it function. What that means, in simple terms, is that it’s an encrypted, authenticated way to pass information between a browser and a server.
Basically, HTTPS keeps your information relatively safe and private.
Why Should I Care?
Keeping your private information private online is always a concern—you don’t want someone getting their hands on your credit card information or bank account info, right?
But other information can also be damaging if it’s passed through an unsecured connection. We all know that we’re not supposed to use easy-to-guess passwords for our logins and that we shouldn’t use the same (or even similar) passwords for different sites, but it’s awfully hard to remember a bajillion passwords for all the websites we use regularly, so most of us tend not to follow this advice very well.
And that can be a problem.
You see, if you enter a password on a site that uses just HTTP, rather than HTTPS, it’s possible for someone to intercept that password and decode it; in fact, it’s kind of easy to do, if you’re good with computers. Then that unscrupulous person can start playing around with username and password combinations and boom! The password you used to log in to Goodreads might give them the keys to get into your bank account.
HTTPS makes it a lot harder to intercept and decrypt a password, making your online activity on HTTPS-encoded sites safer.
Recently, HTTPS also became more important to help protect your overall privacy online. United States internet service providers (ISPs) like AT&T and Comcast no longer have to get your permission or notify you before selling your internet activity data to another company.
That data might consist of all the web pages you’ve visited, how long you’ve spent on them, and other info on what you’ve looked at online.
This isn’t a big problem for most people, but it’s still a little weird to think that a company like Amazon could buy your tracking info from your ISP. HTTPS prevents this; the general sites you’ve gone to are still logged, but if you’re on a site that uses HTTPS, the exact pages you’ve visited aren’t listed.
So, for instance, someone who bought your data could see that you went to Amazon.com, but wouldn’t see that you were shopping for peanut butter, bicycles, and snorkels.
What Does This Mean for Me as an Author?
You already know that you should have an author website to help promote your books and your platform. It’s not even that hard to set up, especially if you use WordPress.
HTTPS adds an extra layer of security that may help give your readers extra peace of mind. If you’re selling products on your site, you need HTTPS to be able to securely process payments and manage logins. If you want to add a subscription-only section that gives paying readers access to short stories, say, or if you want to sell courses through your own site, then you should also be using HTTPS.
But any author website can benefit from HTTPS. That’s because more and more browsers are starting to flag non-secure connections. Most have done this for years with a little green lock up in the browser bar that indicates a secure connection (or a lock with a red line through it, showing an open connection), but browsers like Firefox and Chrome are starting to go one step further.
To help protect users from having their data hijacked, these browsers are pointing out unsecure sites with a bigger, bolder warning—one that might make some readers think twice about, say, logging in to comment on your site or signing up for your newsletter, because they think that your site isn’t safe.
How Do I Deal with This?
Luckily, HTTPS is pretty easy to implement! It sounds scary, as many techie computer things do, but for the average user, adding HTTPS isn’t that hard.
Most web hosts have simple, free or inexpensive SSL certificates you can use. An SSL certificate is a “Secure Socket Layer,” which just means that it’s the thing that gives you the “all’s okay here” green lock in your browser bar.
If you search for your hosting provider and “SSL installation,” you’ll find plenty of specific resources. For the most part, though, all you’ll have to do is log in to your host, go to your control panel, and navigate to the SSL section.
Now your author site is safe and secure!
Use HTTPS for Your Author Site
Take the time to set up some simple security for your author website.
Not only will it give your readers peace of mind, it’ll let you take the next step to selling subscriptions or books right from your website when you’re ready.
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