SSL certificate – the first step towards encryption

We are buying and selling items online as never before. Our names, addresses, bank data, and far more delicate information is going around the Internet with every transaction. This data could have been extremely easy to steal if there was no way to protect it. Here comes the SSL certificate, the one that almost every e-commerce site uses to encrypt your data and protect it. 

What is a SSL certificate?

The SSL (Secure Socket Layer) certificate is one of the different cryptographic protocols out there and serves to encrypt the communication between two points. Usually, those two points are the user surfing through the web and the server that receives its information. 

The information can use 64-bit, 128-bit, 256-bit, or more encryption. The higher the number, the more difficult it is to crack it. 

In order to read the information, you will need a key. There is a public key for decrypting (reading the data) and a private key for encrypting (writing the data). 

Apart from secure communication, the SSL certificate serves as an authentication method. It guarantees that the company, person, website, or so on is the one they say they are. 

There is an intermediate authority, a Certificate Authority (CA), that has the job to prove the entity’s authenticity. 

Those CAs have strict policies and rules that need to be followed to create the SSL certificate. There are different SSL certificates, from easy-to-get like DV SSL to EV certificates that require more information and are more expensive.

How does the SSL certificate work? 

A visitor to your site is connecting to it. If you have already set up a SSL certificate, your server will send the SSL certificate to that visitor’s computer. The visitor’s browser will use the certificate’s public key and check if it is valid and create a symmetric session key. With its private key, the server can decrypt that symmetric session key. This is the so-called SSL Handshake process. Now both sides have trust on the other side, and they can use the session key for further encryption and decryption.   

When and where would I use a SSL certificate?

You will use a SSL certificate every time where you need to have secure communication. That includes the following: 

  • Between the visitors’ browser and the servers of a site
  • Secure user to user communication on an internal network inside a company
  • One server to another server data transfer
  • Secure communication from and to mobile devices like smartphones, tablets, laptops, and so on.  

Benefits of SSL certificate

There are various benefits from having a SSL certificate on your site: 

Secure point to point communication that is encrypted. Fewer chances to make valuable data public.

Increased trust in your site. Lack of SSL certificate already is taken as a massive mistake in online retail. 

Better ranking in Google. Lack of it will be sanctioned by Google and will lead to dropping to further pages. 

Types of SSL certificates? 

If you have checked already, there are many types and prices of SSL certificates out there. We can group them into 3 main categories: 

  • DV (domain validation). This one is the most common. It validates the owner of the domain by checking the e-mail that was used for the domain registration. The CA will validate it, and if everything is ok, a DV SSL certificate will be granted.  
  • OV (Organization validation). Here the point is to validate the organization. The CA will check if the actual organization exists, usually by taking into account the name, address, phone number, and more. 
  • EV (extended validation). This is the highest level SSL certificate. Just like the OV, the CA will check information about the organization. Here it could ask for even more data and provide the best possible validation. 

Conclusion

Now you know what SSL certificate, when, and why to use it. Now go and check which one you need. Pay attention if it covers more than one domain, just one domain, or the subdomains too. Good luck and keep everything safe! 

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