Safe online shopping starts here
Secure servers provide unique encryption sessions between your computer and a merchant's website and keep your data safe when interacting with online payment systems.
Secure server certificates are created for a particular server, a specific domain and a verified business entity which allows web site visitors to safely transmit sensitive information and get a better idea of who they are entrusting it to.
Identifying a Secure Connection in your browser
When you access a secure server the address of the web site will change from 'http://www...' to 'https://www...' signifying that the site is secure.
Most web browsers (the program you are using right now to view this website) will also have a notification area that informs you - either visually, audibly or both - when you enter and leave a secure server. Over the last few years, web browsers (such as Internet Explorer, Firefox, Netscape, Opera, Safari and many more) have diversified in look and usability so much that the methods used to notify you when you access a secure connection vary significantly in each browser.
On older browsers you will most likely see a padlock appear along the status bar of your browser - this is most likely found at the bottom of the screen.
Examples can be seen here:
|Netscape 6 Symbol|
|Internet Explorer 6 Symbol|
|Mozilla Firefox 1 Symbol|
On newer browsers the focus has shifted towards the address bar (where you see 'http://www.shopsafe.co.uk') along the top of the screen.
Examples can be seen here:
Mozilla Firefox 2 (address bar)
Internet Explorer 7 (address bar)
Netscape Navigator 9 (address bar)
Opera 9 (address bar)
Safari 3 (top right corner)
In the case of Firefox and Netscape, the address bar also turns yellow to further highlight your secure connection, whilst Opera 9 also displays the name of the merchant who runs the website and the secure server.
A new type of secure server certificate, known as "extended validation" certificates will change the colour of the address bar to green when the certificate is valid.
Invalid Certificates / Insecure Sites
Some Browsers (suce as I.E.7) will warn you if you ever try to access an invalid, expired or revoked certificate. If you choose to ignore this warning and proceed to the site, your address bar will turn red.
If your address bar turns red or none of the above happens*, then this is not a secure server - don't enter your credit card details. Don't be afraid to email the vendor and ask them a few questions to put your mind at rest!
Note about Actinic Sites
Shopping sites using the Actinic software don't use standard secure servers as mentioned above, but use 128-bit encryption using a Java applet to safely encrypt credit card information. Barclays Bank, HSBC and the Royal Bank of Scotland approve Actinic software for their merchants to use. Again, if you have any doubts email the merchant.
Secure Server Providers
You can find out more about secure servers by visiting the websites below:
You may also see the logos of the above providers shown prominently on websites claiming to have a secure server, in most cases you can click this logo for a real-time status check, supplied by the provider, allowing you to further verify the merchant's credentials.
* - if you have applied a custom look (also known as a 'skin') to your web browser, this may affect the appearance and location of elements on your screen - if in doubt check with the manufacturer of the 'skin' and/or your browser.
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