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Are you using HSTS for increased website security?

Are you using HSTS for increased website security? The top website development companies understand the value HSTS can bring to a site not only for security but also to provide a better user experience. Today we wanted to discuss exactly what HSTS is along with why it is something you need for your website.

What is HSTS?

By now most people have heard of HTTPS, which stands for Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure. This is a secure version of HTTP, which is the underlying protocol used by the World Wide Web to define message formats and transmissions. With HTTPS there is an added layer of security for the data being transferred through a secure socket layer (SSL) or transport layer security (TLS) connection.

For transactions involving sensitive or important data, such as billing information, user logins, or credit card transaction data, the added layer of security helps avoid certain types of attacks and hacks and keep data secure even if the connection is compromised.

In 2017, Google Chrome began marking pages that collected passwords or credit card data as “not secure” if they only used HTTP rather than HTTPS. They also made HTTPS a ranking signal which means your site really should be using HTTPS rather than the old HTTP. Sites then began converting from HTTP to HTTPS for added security and ranking concerns.

HSTS stands for HTTP Strict Transport Security and is security method to protect sites from cookie hijacking and protocol downgrade attacks by allowing web servers to declare that web browsers should only interact using secure HTTPS connections and not HTTP.

Increased website security and more!

The most important aspect of using HSTS is increased website security. By only allowing interactions with other HTTPS connections you are not opening the door to specific types of hacks or data breaches such as SSL stripping.

Hackers look to exploit any crack or weak point they can find and as sites convert from HTTP to HTTPS there are common issues, such as with 301 redirects to switch from HTTP to HTTPS, a vulnerability is created. This opening is then protected when HSTS is implemented, forcing sites to load over HTTPS regardless of any calls made to try an HTTP connection, whether made legitimately by the website or illegitimately by a hacker.

However, there are two additional benefits you gain by using this level of security; better user experience and a boost to SEO. This happens because using HSTS allows for faster page load speed, which directly relates to SEO and the user experience.

  • SEO and page load speed – There are two reasons why page load speed affects SEO – mobile users and Google’s mobile-first initiative. Mobile users have increased both in total numbers and usage time. At the same time, Google has focused on those users looking to enhance their experience by doing things such as including page speed as a ranking factor on mobile search. The faster your site loads, the better it will rank.
  • User experience and page load speed – In a nutshell, the faster a page loads, the better of an experience the user has. While that statement might vary in degrees, such as a site that loads in 0.15 seconds versus 0.18, it is generally correct. About half of web users expect a site to load in 2 seconds or less and abandonment rates drastically increase for every second beyond the 3-second mark it takes a site to load. Satisfied users convert more often so adding an extra layer of security while also increasing the user’s satisfaction level seems like a no-brainer.

So how do you implement HSTS?

To add HSTS to a website first you need to have a valid SSL certificate installed. Then you need to enable HTTPS on the root domain and all subdomains. Finally, you need to add the HSTS header activated which you can do yourself. Or it can be done through your hosting site. Overall it is not an arduous process to complete especially when you consider the benefits.

The bottom line

The bottom line is that you should be using HSTS to increase website security. You honestly can’t have enough security online these days and this option is not overly difficult to implement. Additionally, there is the added bonus of faster page loading speed. This will help increase user satisfaction while also positively affecting your SEO efforts.


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