SSL Certificates – A Powerful Tool for Virtual Authentication

While many of us would have frequently heard this term “SSL Certificate”, but very few of us actually know what it is or how it works and since very few of us really know what an SSL Certificate is, it’s quite obvious that they might not be aware of its importance or criticality in the world of computers and internet.  

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Specifically termed as Secure Socket Layer Protocol Certificate, SSL certificate was developed by Netscape to add security factor to the transactions between browsers and web servers. The protocol employs a third party, a Certificate Authority to identify transactions at both the ends or if its difficult to understand that way, in layman’s language SSL Certificate for a website is like a Passport or a Driver’s License that is issued by a trusted source known as Certificate Authority.  

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To canvas the basic understanding of an SSL Certificate through a real world example, let’s imagine someone sending a mail through a regular postal system in envelope. Since it has no security factor, anyone with access to that envelope can easily retrieve its contents and if it looks valuable they might even take a possession of it or make changes to it.

To cut the long story short, An SSL Certificate is something that encrypts virtual transactions or transitions or any exchange of data over the internet thus making it completely secure.

Workflow of SSL Certificate:

This is how a Secure Socket Layer Protocol Certificate works.

  • A secure page is requested by a browser – https:// usually
  • A public key is sent by a web server along with its certificate
  • The browser then verifies that the certificate is issued by a trusted source that the certificate is valid and is allied to the website contacted
  • Upon verification, the public key is then used by a browser essentially to encrypt a random symmetric encryption key and is transmitted to the server with the URL that is encrypted and required along with the other encrypted http data.
  • The symmetric key is then decrypted by a web server using its private key and the server then uses the symmetric key to decrypt the http data and URL.
  • The requested html document and http data is then transmitted by the web server encrypted with the symmetric key.
  • And finally the http data and html document is decrypted by the browser using the symmetric key and the information is displayed.

For someone with a very low technical knowledge, the above workflow might seem little bit complicated. However to get a very clear understanding on this, there are several technical concepts that needs to be understood including Private Key / Public Key, The Certificate, The Symmetric Key, Encryption Algorithm, The hash, Signing, Passphrase, Public Key Infrastructure etc.

Types of SSL Certificates:

Since there are many types of SSL Certificates, not all of them are same if compared to each other. When it comes to SSL protection on any website, it is vital to consider what type of certificate you get. Since it’s a security application, it essentially serves two main purposes.

  • Identifying your business website
  • Encrypting the sensitive information contained in your website

SSL Certificates have different pricing structure ranging from $30 to $1,000 a year and how much it will cost to have an SSL protection really depends on the type of certificate you use.

Listed below are main types of SSL certificates and their features:

Dedicated SSL Certificates: These types of Certificates are specifically assigned to the website’s unique domain name. So dedicated SSL certificates often require unique domain names and cannot be shared with multiple domain names, not even sub domains. These types of Certificates are usually most expensive.

Shared SSL Certificates: As the name itself suggests, shared SSL Certificates are the ones that can be shared with others unlike dedicated SSL Certificates. What that means that you can use someone else’s SSL Certificate for your own website, but the drawback is that the name on the certificate would not match yours but it will reflect the name of whoever is the owner of that certificate. Most importantly during the transition of website between web servers and hosts, this type of SSL encryption cannot be used. These types of SSL Certificates are mainly offered by many ecommerce web hosts making things really easy and all inclusive.

Free SSL Certificates: By using the word free, we don’t mean that it comes at absolutely no cost, but these are the certificates where the cost is far less than compared to above three types of SSL Certificates. There are many companies offering these types of certificates but the level of encryption they have are not same as the paid ones and hence its really important to consider getting this kind of protection from a reputable organization.

Wildcard SSL Certificates: These types of Certificates are mainly used for websites having sub domains ensuring the complete protection of all the sub domains. Wildcard SSL protection authorizes protection of different aspects of a Web portal with one SSL Certificate.

When it comes to SSL security, one most important thing to keep in mind while making comparison between different types of SSL Certificates is the level of security offered. However 128 bit encryption is what Industry standard is. Even 256 bit comparison is available for a increased fee and some companies even offer 58 bit encryption to make it less expensive. The logic is that higher the encryption number, the better you get the security.

Conclusion:

Since most of the businesses are now becoming virtual and are giving a thrust to online transactions, with increased number of virtual financial activities, it becomes exposed to cyber crimes all the more and looking at today’s world scenario where the cyber crime ratio is booming high, using a SSL Certificate protection is no more an option but has become a bare necessity. Having said it is highly recommended to adopt an SSL encryption with utmost level of security to ensure the complete protection of sensitive data and various aspects of a website.

Get complete information about the benefits and advantages of having a great SSL certificate that is provided by reputable provider. When you want to include website hosting, you will be able to add this service in your package easily!