Understanding what an SSL certificate is


What is SSL?

Secure Sockets Layer is a type of security technology. It is used for creating a secure, encrypted connection between your browser and a web server using cryptography. Think of it as a private channel of communication, similar to the ones secret agents in spy movies use for sending encrypted messages.

A website’s SSL certificate is just a small piece of data. Your web browser requests a web server for the website’s contents whenever you’re trying to access it. When that occurs, the SSL certificate authenticates the identity of the website and ensures the privacy of any data you send to the server.

How do SSL certificates perform?

Public key cryptography, which utilizes two long strings of random numbers called “keys,” is a concept used in SSL technology. One is a public key, the other is a private key.

Any data can be encrypted using the public key, which is available to everyone. However, the data cannot be decrypted using the public key.

The private key can come in handy in this case. The communication was encrypted using the public key and can only be decrypted using the private key.

Your public key will turn the message into a secret code, for instance, if a user sends you a message via a form on your website. The only person who has access to the private key is you (i.e., your web server), so only you can decipher and read this message. If a hacker tries to steal the message as it is being sent to the server, they will only be able to steal the message’s secret cryptographic code.

Why do websites use an SSL certificate?

An SSL certificate is needed for a website to keep safe user data, verify the site’s ownership, prevent attackers from creating a fake version of the site, and gain over users.

Encryption: SSL/TLS encryption is made possible by the identical pair of public and private keys that SSL certificates make feasible. The SSL certificate of a server provides clients (like web browsers) with the public key necessary to open a TLS connection.

Authentication: SSL certificates verify that a client has contact with the correct server, which is the real domain owner. This reduces the chance of domain spoofing and other threats.

HTTPS: An SSL certificate is necessary for an HTTPS web address, which is particularly crucial for businesses. Websites that use HTTPS, or the safe form of HTTP, have their traffic encrypted by SSL/TLS.

In addition to protecting user data while it is in transit, HTTPS increases trust in websites. Although most people won’t be able to identify the difference between a website’s http:// and https:// addresses, most browsers prominently display HTTP sites as “not secure” to encourage users to migrate to HTTPS to increase security.

How does an SSL certificate obtained by a website?

Direct access to SSL certificates can be obtained through Certificate Authorities (CAs). Millions of SSL certificates are issued yearly by certificate authorities, also known as certification authorities. They are crucial to the functioning of the internet and the ability of online users to engage in interactions that are transparent and trustworthy.

Depending on the level of security you require, an SSL certificate can cost nothing or hundreds of dollars. Following your choice of certificate type, you can search for Certificate Issuers that offer SSLs at the required level.

The following actions must be taken to obtain your SSL:

  • Set up your server and make sure your WHOIS record is updated and matches the data you are sending to the Certificate Authority to be prepared. (It needs to show the exact company name, address, etc.)
  • Generating a CSR for a certificate on your server. Your hosting company can help you with this.
  • Submitting this to the Certificate Authority for validation of your domain name and company details
  • As soon as the process is finished, install the certificate they provide.

Once obtained, the certificate must be configured on your web host’s servers, or if you are hosting the website yourself, on your servers.

What kind of certificate you get and whatever certificate provider you purchase it from will determine how quickly you receive it. It takes a variable amount of time to complete each stage of validation. When compared to Extended Validation, a simple Domain Validation SSL certificate can be issued only a few minutes after the order.

What is a self-signed SSL certificate?

It is technically possible for anyone to produce their own SSL certificate by establishing a public-private key pair and including all the information described above. These certificates are known as “self-signed certificates” since the website’s private key would be used as the digital signature, instead of a single from a certificate authority (CA).

The origin server’s authenticity cannot be independently confirmed with self-signed certificates, though. Despite having an https:// URL, browsers may still mark sites with self-signed certificates as “not secure” since they don’t view them as trustworthy. Additionally, they could cut off the connection altogether, blocking the website from loading.

How Does a Website Get an SSL Certificate?

Do you need assistance obtaining an SSL certificate? You should first choose the type of certificate you require before ordering an SSL certificate for your website. A typical SSL certificate is sufficient for many businesses in terms of its regular SSL certificate meaning, but organizations subject to severe privacy and security standards must consult their IT team to make sure the SSL certificate you choose is adequate.

For instance, the 1999 EU Digital Signature Act mandates the usage of Qualified Website Authentication Certificates (QWAC), therefore a financial institution in the EU may want to seek these.

You can get in touch with a supplier once you’ve determined which SSL certificate is suitable for your particular type of organization. Be careful to pay attention to how long the certificate lasts as well as what it takes to renew your certificate after it has expired.


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