Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

Gold lock icon, a reader question: Holiday Edition

Greetings to you on my second favorite holiday and, yes, I felt the earthquake. Today I’m going to answer a reader’s question on a security topic you may find helpful– in the Q’s and their A’s format.

Q: Why did the gold lock icon disappear?
A: The gold lock icon is a visual clue that you are on a webpage that is secured by a special, encrypted connection. These special, encrypted pages are used to transmit the information between machines in a way that, if a hacker were to intercept the 1’s and 0’s (or otherwise obtain a copy), he would not be able to read your credit card number, name, and shipping address. It is absolutely essential to your privacy and fiscal security that you never provide your personal information to a website on a page that DOES NOT start with “https://” (note the “s”, for “secure”; which I discussed in this prior reader questions article) and DOES NOT display a gold lock icon in the address bar. gold_lock.jpg

 Please note, and understand, that an image on a webpage — and I mean on the page itself — can be any graphic the webmaster desires. He could copy and paste a gold lock graphic as easily as I did. The gold lock icon you’re looking for needs to be in (or “on”) your browser itself. It is triggered (in your browser) by the communication protocol — called SSL — and the fact that you are (invisibly to you) switched from the standard HTTP “language” to the encrypted HTTP(S) machine language.

The reason some pages on a website — usually the “log in” and “Shopping Cart” pages — are encrypted and others aren’t, has to do with the fact that https costs money (This helps keep the phishers at bay, btw). A “trust certificate” has to be purchased from a Certificate Authority, like Verisign. There are technical reasons (which I won’t bore you with) why a webmaster will design the website so that only the pages which need encryption are encumbered by it.

The fact is, you only need to see the security indicators on the page that is asking you to send your personal information. You don’t need it when viewing a product catalogue page, and you won’t (if the webmaster is at all competent) see a gold lock icon when viewing these types of pages.
Say you’re shopping for a book on Amazon.com. You will not see a gold lock while you’re browsing around the books-for-sale pages, nor the reviews pages, and so on. Now you’ve found what you’re looking for, and it’s time to dig out your credit card (if you’ve memorized your cc number, well… no comment); you place a check on the item you’re interested in and click on a link titled “Proceed to Secure Checkout”, or “Add to Shopping Cart+Checkout”, or some similar thing. Now is when you need to look for and see the gold lock.
Do not type in a single thing if you don’t.

Today’s free link:There has recently been updates to the other free graphics program, mentioned here earlier, that makes it worth reposting: it’s even more like Photoshop now than ever– Gimp 2.4. “GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) is a freely distributed piece of software suitable for such tasks as photo retouching, image composition, and image authoring. It is a powerful piece of software with capabilities not found in any other free software product.”

Copyright © 2007 Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

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October 31, 2007 - Posted by | advice, computers, how to, IE 7, PC, Phishing, searching, security, tech, Windows | , ,

13 Comments »

  1. thanks for the software link save me $$$ on buying photoshop!

    Like

    Comment by Mike | November 1, 2007 | Reply

  2. suddenly the gold lock has arrived when I try to open google gmail: What can I do

    Like

    Comment by Keith Hayes | June 6, 2009 | Reply

    • Mr. Hayes,
      I’m not sure what you’re asking me.

      In its proper usage, the lock icon is a way to indicate that you are using a secure protocol (https, as opposed to ‘normal’ http) and is a good thing. Are you asking me how to make it go away?

      I suspect you have set your Gmail preferences to “always use HTTPS”, and that is why you are now seeing a lock icon.
      (See Tip #1 here, https://techpaul.wordpress.com/2008/08/04/secure-gmail-repair-internet-explorer/)

      Like

      Comment by techpaul | June 6, 2009 | Reply

  3. Dear Paul

    Thank you very much for you remarkably swift reply. I have followed the advice and am amazed to say that I can now access gmail.

    I cannot thank you enough.

    Kind regards

    Keith Hayes

    Like

    Comment by Keith Hayes | June 6, 2009 | Reply

  4. The last coupla times I tried to buy something I’ve noticed that the Gold Lock Icon is missing. What’s up with that. Does that mean the sites are not secure?
    I see this same question at the top of this page but never did see the answer as to why it no longer appears.
    Thanks!
    Shelley

    Like

    Comment by Shelley | July 22, 2009 | Reply

    • Shelley,
      Since that article was posted (in 2007), there has been changes in browsers, and security certificates. The “gold lock” may, or may not, appear somewhere in the browser (if it is on the page itself, it’s just a jpeg) but if it doesn’t, the address bar may have turned green, or some other indication is employed.

      What hasn’t changed is the “s” in a secure website address — the https:// (as opposed to a ‘normal’ http://) and you should definitely look for that.
      And I should update this article .. Thank you.

      Like

      Comment by techpaul | July 22, 2009 | Reply

  5. Thank you very much for this article. It very interesting.

    Like

    Comment by kim | May 17, 2010 | Reply

  6. Maybe you can help. I not longer get a gold lock on my web browsers (safari and firefox) the lock is there but its’ not gold its grayed out. do you think something is wrong with my computer? Mac g5

    Like

    Comment by rob | November 11, 2010 | Reply

    • rob,
      I don’t know that there’s something wrong with your computer, exactly, but yes – something is wrong.

      A grayed-out icon indicates that the secured SSL has failed (is ‘unavailable’), and your communications are not encrypted (protected).

      I am not an Apple ‘genius’, I never use Safari, haven’t found a reason to turn on my G3 in over a year.. so I am not going to tell you the troubleshooting steps. But I can suggest where to start looking. SSL uses “certificates”, issued by a “certificate authority”. These “certificates” are managed both by the application (a web browser, or e-mail client, for example) and the “keychain”. Since it happening to both browsers, I would start by looking at the keychain.

      I might also suggest posting this question on an Apple-oriented forum. Sorry I can’t be of more help.

      Like

      Comment by techpaul | November 11, 2010 | Reply

  7. About the time I had a problem with my McAfee I noticed that the gold lock icon had grayed. McAfee was uninstall and reinstalled remotely by McAfee. Next day I had problem with my HPC4780 printer which was troubleshooted by Hp remotelyand fixed.

    The gold icon lock is still grayed. I computer to computer repair place and they said as long as the online banking and creditcard sites show https the site is secure.

    I am not comfortable with this answere and as I make a lot of payments and bank on line I need to know what the problem is an dhow to resolve it.

    Thanks for your help
    Hilda

    Like

    Comment by Hilda | May 7, 2011 | Reply

  8. P>S. Computer repair shop said as my computeris running slow it could have spyware on it and/or needs to be reformatted. Nevertheless they insist that the online banking and credit card sites I use are secure because it show https.

    Like

    Comment by Hilda | May 7, 2011 | Reply

    • Hilda,
      First, I have not looked at your PC, and so I can only answer in the most general of ways:
      There is some truth in all of what you have been told; and there are also unanswered suspicions.

      My recommendation to you is to take no chances, period. So I would have the computer reformatted. And I would use a different security suite than McAfee. Norton Internet Security 2011 is generally considered the best right now. (For an excellent product comparison, see, Best Internet Security Suites for 2011 (review).)

      Like

      Comment by techpaul | May 9, 2011 | Reply


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