What is an SSL Certificate?

Some of our customers have asked us about SSL certificates and whether they need them. Here we explain a bit more about them.

With more and more financial transactions taking place on the internet Cybercriminals are always on the prowl to steal such sensitive information and use it to their advantage. The risk of theft of sensitive personal and financial data of users is at an all-time high.

However, an SSL certificate ensures that the data is encrypted and secure from any potential attacks. Transferring data in an encrypted manner makes it as difficult as possible for anyone perpetrating man-in-the-middle attacks on the servers to decipher the information.

Secure Sockets Layer

A Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), also known as Transport Layer Security (TLS) is a security protocol that was created by Netscape in order to have secure transactions among the web browsers and servers. Essentially, it is a digital certificate that serves two purposes:

1) It allows the encryption of information sent to the server by the browser

2) It authenticates the website's identity

This means that the user knows the information sent to the server is being encrypted and is therefore secure.

Basis of SSL

SSL uses encryption technology to scramble data and turn it into an unreadable form that can only be unscrambled with the corresponding decryption key. This is done so that the data remains secure and confidential from hackers.

How Does SSL Work?

SSL offers security through public/private key encryption. The process is also known as asymmetric encryption or public key encryption.

The message is encrypted using a public key (a string of letters and numbers) that only the owner of the message can read using the private key, which is corresponding to the public key. This private key is kept confidential from the world at large. The encryption-decryption can also be facilitated vice-versa, i.e., encryption using a private key and decryption using a public key in order to have a secure one-on-one conversation.

The Web server/ Client SSL Handshake

The process that takes place between a web server and its client (a browser) in order to establish an encrypted connection is known as an SSL Handshake. This consists of two steps:

1) The browser sends a ClientHello message containing version information, cypher suites, compression methods etc.

2) The server responds with a ServerHello message containing information about its own capabilities.

The browser and the server then negotiate a mutually-acceptable cypher suite and authentication protocol (think of it like finding a common language with someone) which will be used for the duration of the session.

SSL Certificates

The SSL certificate gives visitors and users of the website a sense of confidence as to its credentials and reliability. They are a way to prove that the site you're visiting has been properly verified. SSL protocol is most commonly used by e-commerce websites and banking gateways when transferring sensitive financial information in order to process user requests. They help protect against man-in-the-middle attacks, which occur when someone tries to intercept your confidential information as it travels between servers and browsers.

The All Important S!

Internet users can verify the security of the connection by checking the protocol in the website's address bar (instead of the usual “http://”, the address starts from “https://”, where ‘s’ stands for secure). The interaction with the secure server is facilitated by the web browser and it is terminated only when the transaction is complete from the secure server’s end.

SSLs are a way to prove that the site you're visiting has been properly verified. SSL does this by creating an encrypted connection between your device and website every time any data is sent along these connections; meaning no cybercriminals can get their hands on anything sensitive like passwords because there isn't enough room for them inside the course of conversation (encryption ).

Why Do You Need an SSL Certificate?

The primary purpose of SSL certificates is to protect your customers' personal information, like passwords and credit card numbers, as it travels over the internet.

In addition, many users are aware of the need for SSL Certificates so will choose to use websites that have valid HTTPS certificates. This can be critical to the success of any online business. As such, having a valid SSL certificate is a must for any e-commerce website.

Contents of SSL Certificate

An SSL certificate comprises of the following information:

i. Name of the certificate holder

ii. Serial Number

iii. Expiry date of the certificate

iv. A copy of the public key of the certificate holder

v. Digital signature of the authority issuing the certificate

The SSL certificates can be purchased from the certifying authorities after verification.

What is the Difference Between 128-bit and 256-bit Encryption?

Keys come in either 256-bit encryption or 128-bit encryption. The more bits, the longer the key and the stronger the encryption.

A bit is a single value and can be either 0 or 1. Now, in a 128-bit key, the cypher would be 128-bits long, which means that there are about 3.4 x 10e38 possible combinations and that is a huge number to crack the encryption. In a 256-bit key, the cypher would be 256-bits long, which means that there are about 1.5 x10e77 possible combinations and that is exponentially stronger than 128-bit encryption.

Multi-Domain SSL Certificates

Multi-Domain SSL Certificates are a great solution for businesses that have multiple websites or subdomains. This type of SSL Certificate allows you to secure and encrypt information on all your websites with one certificate, thus making it easier to manage the certificates and ensuring that all your websites have the same level of security. Multi-Domain SSL Certificates save you time, money and resources.

What is the Requirement for an SSL certificate?

The requirements for an SSL certificate include providing the Business name identifying information, such as an Extended Validation Certificate, the verification of the company's physical address or individual’s identity, as well as proof of ownership over the domain or subdomain. This is to prevent fraudsters from impersonating legitimate companies and websites.

Extended Validation Certificate

An Extended Validation Certificate also known as EV certificate is the highest type of SSL certificate available in the market today. This type of certificate requires additional vetting to ensure that it is only issued to legitimate companies and businesses. The EV Certificate provides maximum security, trust and assurance to website users. When a website has an EV certificate installed, the URL turns green and the name of the business is displayed in the address bar. This will inform customers that the website is secure, verified and legitimate

It is important to understand that EV certificates are more expensive than other types of SSL certificates as they require additional vetting procedures. However, if you have an online store or need to provide sensitive information such as credit card numbers, an Extended Validation Certificate is the best choice for you

EVCs are the most secure and provide customers with a sense of assurance that their data is safe on your website. When it comes to choosing an SSL certificate for your website, consider the needs of your business and make sure you choose the right one.

Certificate Authorities

Additionally, the issuing authority will check that all the contact details and address provided are correct and up-to-date. SSL certificates are issued for a stipulated period of time. Once this period is up, you will have to renew your SSL certificate in order for it to remain valid and secure

In Conclusion.

Having a valid SSL Certificate is essential for all e-commerce websites that collect personal information or sensitive data from users. By encrypting the data with an SSL Certificate, businesses can ensure their customers’ data is safe and secure. Additionally, having a valid SSL Certificate will help businesses to build trust with their customers, which can have a positive impact on the success of any online business.

Need an SSL Certificate?

This depends on the type of website you have and how sensitive the information is that your website visitors are disclosing. Some merchants, such as Google Checkout, will require you to have an SSL certificate.

As always, if you need any help or require any further information, get in touch.

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