In an era of ever questionable internet security, Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) is rewarding web sites that protect their visitors.

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Google to give preference to secured web sites

In its coveted search rankings, Google will give preference to web sites deemed more secure. To make this determination, Google is currently testing a system that highlights web pages that have the HTTPS encryption by default. The search preference could expand across all its algorithmic rankings shortly, Google said in a blog post.

The goal of the program is tom motivate web sites to turn on the encryption function on their web site, which makes them less vulnerable to criminal hack attacks.

Encryption is a method used to digitally scramble data as it passes between a web site visitor and website.  The goal is to prevent snoopy eavesdropping that can transform into a dangerous security breaches.

“Security is a top priority for Google,” the company said in the blog post. “We invest a lot in making sure that our services use industry-leading security, like strong HTTPS encryption by default.”

Organizations shied away from encryption due to cost concerns

“Previously organizations have shied away from encryption due to cost concerns or fears of slowing website response times,” Jason Hart, of the data protection consultancy SafeNet, was quoted as saying in a BBC report. “But there are now high-speed encryption technologies available that mean cost and speed need no longer be an issue.  There really is no excuse for any data to be transmitted or stored in plain text.”

Right now Google says its preference for the secure web site protocol might only impact 1 percent of search results, but this could rise.

“Over the past few months we’ve been running tests taking into account whether sites use secure, encrypted connections as a signal in our search ranking algorithms,” the blog post said.

Google says they have seen positive results using HTTPS as a ranking signal and wants to provide webmasters time to adjust to the change. “For now it’s only a very lightweight signal—affecting fewer than 1% of global queries, and carrying less weight than other signals such as high-quality content—while we give webmasters time to switch to HTTPS. But over time, we may decide to strengthen it, because we’d like to encourage all website owners to switch from HTTP to HTTPS to keep everyone safe on the web.”