Google recently announced that the next version of their Chrome browser will alert users if websites are not encrypted. What’s encryption? Simply put, unencrypted information is plain text, encryption uses a secret key to protect the information (think World War II Enigma Machine!). The easy way to tell if a website is encrypted is to look in the address bar – if the address is https:// it IS encrypted, http:// is NOT.
Why is this important? Every time you offer information to a website, be it searching in Google or personal information to make a purchase, that information is exchanged across the public space that is the internet. If the information is encrypted it is very difficult to grab. If it is unencrypted (remember plain text) it’s very easy to steal. Never offer personal information to an unencrypted website, unless you want your identity stolen. It’s as simple as checking the address, using one of the browser encryption add ons or get the new version of Chrome when it launches. To find an encrytion add on, do a search of something like “browser add encryption.” These will at least alert you if the site is not.
Conversely, is your congregation’s website encrypted? If you collect information from users like registrations or donations and your site, or at least those pages, are not encrypted you’re putting the users and your congregation at risk. Large companies like Sony make the news when their information is stolen, but it happens much more frequently to small operations who fail to take basic security measures to protect themselves and their patrons.
Be a good privacy steward and safe browsing!