While the digital space has seen significant advancements geared towards improving security and restoring digital trust, cybercriminals are becoming increasingly creative in executing various malicious attacks.
The rampant increase and sophistication in social engineering and phishing methods have made data security a principal factor in online business management. Online security is especially vital for digital platforms of financial institutions like banks, credit unions, and insurance firms, which are the main targets of cybercriminals.
Online banking has revolutionized the financial sector in recent years. It offers great convenience, like the ability to transfer money, pay bills, and manage transactions from anywhere. The comfort and access, however, introduces a vulnerability to attacks by cybercriminals. Banking websites should have an SSL certificate to ensure authentication, privacy, and data integrity in all transactions.
Extended Validation SSL Certificate
SSL certificates ensure authentication, privacy, and data integrity in internet communications. There are several SSL certificates, and they offer distinct levels of authentication. Extended Validation is a type of SSL certificate that offers the highest authentication level, making it ideal for banking websites. It validates an applicant’s legal identity, physical existence, and operational existence. There have additional security products that few brands offer like vulnerability assessments and malware scanners.
A website with an EV SSL certificate features an HTTPS and organization’s name as well as a trust seal that displays the name of the certificate authority and timestamp.
The importance of SSL certificates on banking websites is immense. It has benefits such as:
Improved Security through SSL Encryption
Since banking websites handle very sensitive personal and financial information, clients expect maximum privacy and security for all transactions. In the past, data was transmitted in plaintext over the internet, and anyone who intercepted the message could read it. For example, if a customer entered their credit card information on a website, the data would travel across the web, unconcealed for anyone to steal.
Data encryption is the first and most important step towards securing a banking website. Encryption scrambles data to make it unreadable to unauthorized parties. It alters readable data to make it appear random. The safest method of data encryption is the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) encryption. SSL encryption enables secure transmission of sensitive information between a browser and a web server. When a browser accesses a banking website secured by SSL encryption, the browser and the website establish an SSL handshake to create a secure connection.
SSL encryption can only be implemented by websites with the required type of SSL certificate. An SSL certificate changes the HTTP in a website’s URL to HTTPS, where the “S” stands for secure. This means that all sensitive data transmitted to and from the bank’s website is secure. Such information can be personal information, login details, credit card information, or account transaction details.
Improved Trust through Credible Authentication
Trust is a critical component of any online business. Customers are especially careful when making transactions on online banking platforms. SSL certificates create an environment of trust by providing credible authentication.
Since anyone can create an SSL certificate, its credibility can only be established by tying it to the Certificate Authority (CA). Browsers come with a Trusted Root CA store, which is a pre-installed list of trusted CAs. These trusted Certificate Authorities are audited extensively to ensure compliance with security and authentication standards. Browsers can, therefore, only authenticate a website with an SSL certificate issued by a trusted CA. Before issuing an SSL certificate, a CA has to extensively vet the organization, especially in the case of an Extended Validation SSL Certificate (EV).
Websites implementing an extended validation certificate provides visual cues called EV indicators. These indicators include a company/bank name with a single click on the padlock, HTTPS, a secure padlock, site seal in all browsers. Clients get an absolute assurance of the bank’s identity.
Thwarting Phishing Scams
Phishing scams are arguably the greatest threat to online transactions. They work by tricking unsuspecting victims into submitting personal details and sensitive financial information on web pages that resemble the real website. Phishing attacks on banking websites can be devastating. By using an extended validation certificate, banks can help their customers clearly distinguish between the actual site and the fake ones created by fraudsters. This protects the customers from theft and improves the overall trust of the brand.
Phishing sites are founded on identity deception. The rigorous nature of vetting companies requesting the EV certificates eliminates fake companies. The certificate displays the company name prominently once it is clicked on the padlock. Since the phishing site will not have the same name as the bank, it will be easy for customers to spot the difference.
The rigorous vetting process requires an applicant’s identity and location, making it easier for law enforcement to capture the culprits of phishing.
Meeting Compliance Requirements
There is a whole raft of regulations and guidelines that require financial institutions to protect sensitive data from online theft. Relevant compliance standards like HIPAA/HITECH and PCI-DSS require sites to take all reasonable measures to prevent the loss of confidential financial information such as credit card numbers, PHI, (Personal Identifiable Information) PII and the like.
Financial institutions, like banks, are strongly motivated by both security and compliance. Some laws require notification and remedy in the event a financial institution loses sensitive data like financial information. These breach notifications and solutions are costly for the bottom line and the brand value. At this point, spending money on SSL certificates is a cost-effective insurance policy.
Over the past few years, applications, and compliance requirements for SSL certificates like EV SSL certificates have increased significantly. If this practice continues, bank websites that are already in compliance will not require many changes.
Improved Transaction Rates
The SSL certificates have been shown to increase transaction rates on financial transaction sites. The trust indicator and the displayed company name gives visitors confidence that they are in the right place are it’s safe to proceed. The feeling of safety and assurance increases the average time visitors spend on the site and reduces visitors who leave the site.
Any website that expects visitors to enter login credentials, personally identifiable information (PII) or financial information can benefit significantly from the safe environment created by an SSL certificate.
Bank customers are often plagued by questions like, Is my money safe? Can a third party steal my personal information? Can a third party track my transactions? Can a thief access my funds and clean out my bank account? Banks can ease the minds of their customers by using an SSL certificate on their website. When issued by an authentic Certificate Authority, this type of SSL certificate creates a loyal customer base and prevents losses by providing reliable security, credible authentication, and compliance with regulations.