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SSL Certificate – A Beginner Guide

You might have noticed that some URLs start with HTTP:// and some other start with HTTPS:// What is that extra “s” mean to the website? Where does it come from? That extra “s” means your connection to the website is encrypted and secured. The technology with that extra “s” is called SSL, which primarily stands for “Security Socket Layer”

Due to its numerous protocol and implementation flaws and implementation flaws, SSL has been deprecated for use by the TLS (Transport Layer Security protocol. The new TLS protocol is backward compatible with SSL 3.0

What is SSL?

 SSL encryption ensures that the data passed between two parties remains private and secure.  By this, it helps to prevent hackers from intruding into your privacy and accessing your data.

This authentication process is similar to sealing an envelope before sending it through the mail, SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) is usually used for e-commerce sites that handle money transaction.

It is a type of digital certificate that holds authentication for a website and enabling the connection as encrypted. 

Once the certificate is issued, Instead of “HTTP”  the website’s URL is prefixed with “HTTPS” and a padlock is shown on the address bar.

What information does an SSL certificate contain?

  1. SSL certificate includes:
  2. The domain name for which the certificate was issued for
  3. The person, organization, or device it was issued to
  4. The authority who issued the certificate
  5. The digital signature of the issued authority
  6. List of associated subdomains
  7. Issued date of the certificate
  8. The expiration date of the certificate
  9. The public key (the private key is secret)

Why do websites need an SSL certificate?

SSL is the cornerstone of our secure internet and it protects sensitive information as it transports between networks.  It is important to protect your website even if it doesn’t handle sensitive information. It provides security, data integrity, and privacy for your websites and your users.

An SSL certificate helps secure information such as:

  • Credit card transactions
  • Bank account information
  • Login conditionals
  • Personal information
  • Proprietary information
  • Legal documents

Benefits of using SSL Certificate:

SSL Encrypts Sensitive Information

The main reason for SSL usage is to keep private information sent across the internet encrypted. So that none other than the recipient can access it.  It is very important as the data passing through networks to get to the destination server.  If this data is not encrypted, any computer in between you and the server can read the sensitive data. If an SSL certificate is used, the data become unreadable to anyone. This protects the information from hackers.

SSL Provides Authentication

SSL certificate also provides authentication in addition to encryption.  Your data passing through many computers and any of these computers could pretend to be your website and trick users to send their information. Only by getting an SSL certificate, it is possible to avoid this kind of data-stealing. 

SSL Provides Trust

Web browsers give a visual sign, such as a lock icon or green bar, to ensure that visitors know when the connection is secured.  When a visitor sees these signs, it brings trust to your website.  Some SSL providers give you a trust seal that improves the trust in your customers.

HTTPS protects your website against phishing attacks.  Someone tries to impersonate your website and sending an email is a phishing email.  This kind of email usually includes a link to their website or use your domain name. If your domain is protected with SSL, it is difficult to form them to impersonate your website. This means that your users are far less likely to be caught by phishing attacks

SSL is required for PCI Compliance

Using an SSL Certificate is one of the requirements for credit card usage on your web site.  PCI (Payment Card Industry) will access your site for the certificate before allowing the transactions through your site.

Disadvantages of SSL

SSL Certificate cost is one of the disadvantage. The performance also another disadvantage.  It is because the information needs to be encrypted by the server, which takes some resources but this performance difference is very minimal and can be noticed only if the data amount is huge. Overall, the disadvantages are very less and the advantages are huge.  Proper use of SSL certificates must help protect your website and your customer.

What are the different types of SSL certificates?

The levels of security

Certificates Authorities are trusted entities and they issue and manage the certificates and public keys. The public keys are used in a private network for communication.

There are three types of SSL Certificates.  The security levels they provide are greatly different.  That’s why knowing about these types is important. 

Domain validated (DV) DV certificates verify the owner of the site only.  It is a simple process done by CA just by sending an email to the website’s registered email address to verify its identity.  DA certificates have the lowest level of trust and are commonly used by cybercriminals  because this certificate is easy to obtain and make a website appear to be secure

Organizationally validated (OV):  CA must validate some information, including the organization, location, and its domain name.  Typically this process takes a few days It also has a good option for websites that deals with less sensitive transactions and provide a moderate level of trust.

Extended Validation (EV). This is a must-have certificate for websites that handle sensitive information.  It has the highest level of security and the easiest to identify.  CA performs a detailed review of the applicant to maximize the level of confidence in the business.  This includes the examination of corporate documents, applicant identity, and verifying the information with a third party agency. Users can find out if a website holds this EV certificate if the browser’s URL bar contains a padlock and the company name is listed in green.

Stay Safe With Zero-Knowledge Encryption


Why are SSL providers important?

Trusted providers will issue an SSL certificate only to a verified company after went through several checks. Do you know the SSL provider is trusted?  To find about you can use SSL Certificate Checker or SSL Wizard to compare providers.  Web browsers also verify that SSL providers are following good practices.

How does a website obtain an SSL certificate?

The first step is to identify the type of certificate you need.  For most of the websites, a standard SSL certificate would be enough. 

A domain needs to be obtained from the CA to get a valid SSL certificate.  The CA is an organization, a trusted third party, that generates and issuing SSL certificates.  The CA will digitally sign the certificate with their private key, allowing the client to verify it.  In most cases, CA will charge a fee for issuing the certificate.

Once the certificate is issued, it can be installed and activated on the website’s server. Usually, the web hosting service will handle this procedure. Once the certificate is activated, the website will be able to load HTTPS and all traffic will be encrypted and secured.

What is a self-signed SSL certificate?

 Anyone can create their SSL certificate by generating the public-private key paring and including all the information required for the certificate.

This certificate is called a self-signed certificate.  Instead of the digital signature from CA, the website’s private key is signed.

Self-signed certificates are not verified by the CA.  They are not trustworthy and maybe the site is marked as “not secure” despite the HTTPS:// URL.

There is a possibility of the website being terminated and the connection altogether, blocking the website from loading.

How to get free SSL Certificate free?

There are many webhosting providers offers free SSL Certificate for free when you signed up for the any hosting plan.

Godaddy for instance providing free SSL Certificate for the first year when you sign up for any hosting plan. You will be charged from 2nd year.

BlueHost SSL Certificate comes free with any hosting package.

Most of the top web hosting providers offering SSL Certificate free.