Google UK goes secure – but what does https:// mean for web users?

It’s just one little letter, and the chances are that the majority of people surfing the internet and running searches through Google won’t even notice it. However, it’s there all the same. A small ‘s’ has appeared near the start of Google’s web address, which signifies the company has decided to switch over to using an encryption protocol called SSL.

The change affects users in the UK who are signed into a Google account and automatically redirects them to https://www.google.co.uk. The firm defaulted to SSL for its .com address for signed-in users in October last year.

So what does https:// mean for users?

Well, according to Google, the aim is to provide people with a “more secure and private search experience”. SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer and provides a secure channel for the transfer of data. In this instance it means that there is a secure connection between your computer and Google, making it harder for a third party to intercept any information that you send.

This is most important when you are sending information over an unsecured wireless internet connection such as those found in coffee shops or in public places. Anyone connecting to the internet at home through a wireless router is advised to make certain they have a secure connection and use a password to connect to their modem.

Hang about, I’ve seen this before

It’s more than likely you will indeed have noticed yourself being redirected to pages with SSL encryption – probably when you have moved to the checkout area of a retail website and are preparing to pay for items over the internet.

Last month social messaging site Twitter also introduced secure browsing for all of its users. The company announced a year ago it was allowing users to choose HTTPS browsing and this has now been made the default. The firm said at the time that its long-term intention was to make SSL encrypted access its default position.

Graham Cluley, a senior technology consultant at internet security firm Sophos said Twitter’s move would “help protect the privacy of millions of users”.

He said: “If you log into Twitter over unencrypted WiFi – for instance, at an airport lounge or at a conference – and you don’t have HTTPS enabled, then a hacker could sniff your session cookie. And anyone who can sniff your session cookie can pretend to be you.

“That means they can post tweets as you or read your private direct messages. And you don’t want that.”

So what are your thoughts on the change? Does it make you feel safer when you’re surfing the internet in public, knowing that there is an extra layer of security there to protect you from snooping hackers?

 

Tomorrow, we will be looking at how agencies will be affected by this change.

Tom Clark

I am the Head of Social Search at Lakestar McCANN - a digital marketing agency specialising in SEO, PPC, Social Media, Affiliates, Display and industry news feeds. I have been in the SEO industry for 2 years now, and with Lakestar for over a year, helping to create new effective web strategies, as well as integrating social methods into existing deliverables.

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