Article - It's PAST Time To SSL Secure Your HOA Website!
In early 2017 we strongly advised our clients operating under their own domain names to invest in SSL securing their InstaPage HOA Websites (see earlier article). Unfortunately, we still see far too many clients ignoring this advisement, leaving their sites insecure in an increasingly security conscious Internet world.
We are often asked, what is SSL? Well, SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) is the standard, common method for encrypting data transmitted to and from a website to help protect against hacking or interception of data. Why does a simple HOA website need that level of security? Please read on.
In 2016 Google, the "make-or-break" search engine nearly monopolizing internet searches, decided to give a small boost to SSL secured websites in its search algorithms. This change alone sent website owners that were reliant on search engine visibility for traffic scurrying to secure their websites. Management companies and vendors should have made the SSL commitment on that basis alone at that time to avoid ceding an edge to their competitors. Of course, Google visibility also helps your residents find their HOA websites when they need them.
The pressure to apply SSL security ramped up significantly in late 2016 as new browser releases began generating cautionary warnings such as shown below, causing user concerns and worries as shown in the side-by-side screenshots below.
The most significant warnings are now being applied to the login boxes on websites requiring entry of a userid and password to login, which includes of our InstaPage HOA websites. The result has been an upswell in user complaints and worries, and some users refusing to use the websites fearing lack of safety. The below screenshot reflects one example. Browser makers seem to have concluded that as users tend to use the same logins on most sites they use, a hacking of that login from an otherwise low risk site could expose the user on other more sensitive sites where he or she may have used that same login.
ELIMINATING ALARMING WARNINGS:
The only means of eliminating these warnings is to purchase & install an SSL certificate on the web server for the domain for the website, and to adjust forwarding to push all images and non https:// URL's through the SSL. To complicate matters, not all SSL certificates are equal, in fact, Google has indicated it's Chrome browser will cease accepting Symantec SSL certificates due to shoddy issuance procedures (read "Google Chrome will no longer trust Symantec certificates, 30% of the web will need to switch Certificate Authorities").
In conclusion, the impact of the foregoing changes have made it abundantly clear that SSL encryption is critical not only for proper security, but so your users will feel comfortable in using your HOA website. We again urge our clients to add SSL encryption to their websites if they have not already done so. First year cost through our company to SSL secure your site is a reasonable $99, less on future renewals. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for further information, or to order your SSL certificate.
About The Author: Michael W. Vandor is a 39 year veteran of the community management industry, and is currently the founder and CEO of the makers of the InstaPage HOA Website system, The Lazarus Group Internet Services, LLC, at https://www.instapage.org.