What is an SSL certificate?

General

January 26, 2022 by Granit Emery

SSL certificate Definition

Socket Secure Layer or SSL certificate is one of the most useful digital solutions to authenticate the website’s identity introduced by Netscape in 1995.

It just means SSL is an internet protocol for securing the data transferring from the person’s browser who is viewing your website to the server.

Therefore, it completes a secure encryption process and nobody else can see what is going on. Data transmitted over HTTP protocol is NOT a secure internet connection. The SSL converts it to HTTPS and makes the data transition process safe.

Today, most browsers support this protocol and some do not let you make an insecure connection over HTTP. In addition, using SSL is one of the best ways to secure FTP, IMAP, and SMTP protocols.

In other words, SSL encrypts the client’s sensitive information with a public key and creates a secure link between client and server. This prevents hackers from accessing the user’s data.

In this article, we want to share the definition of the SSL and the explanation of its function, types, and differences between SSL and TLS certificates. We suggest you join us.

How does SSL work?

If you are wondering, how does SSL work? It is enough to imagine you connect to Wi-Fi inside a coffee shop. If there is no SSL certificate and no security layer, hackers can easily access your information and steal them with little effort.

In short, a hacker puts a small software on a webserver to detect and record the input information line by line. The code constantly watches the server communications and waits for the user to share the data.

Due to the encryption function of algorithms, the SSL certificate ensures that the data transferred between two systems remain unreadable. This prevents hackers from accessing sensitive information such as names, addresses, and financial details.

To have SSL certification means, having a key or using an encryption method such as SSL between the client and the server. This process, also known as SSL handshake, works through the following steps:

  • An attempt by a browser or server to connect to a website or web server secured with SSL
  • A request from the browser or server to identify the webserver
  • Sending the SSL certificate from the webserver to the browser or server
  • Validation of the certificate by the browser or server and sending a signal in case of approving
  • Sending a digital confirmation from the web server and starting an encrypted connection
  • Sharing encrypted data between browser or server and web server

Shortly, we can describe the steps of this process as follows:

  1. Server Identification
  2. Client Authentication
  3. Encrypted Communication

If you connect to websites secured by an SSL certificate, in addition to the HTTPS:// phrase in the URL, you will also see a padlock icon in the URL address bar. HTTPS extension stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure and it means that the secure connection has been successfully established.

 

Type of SSL

Types of SSL certificates

There are different types of SSL certificates in terms of validity. Some of them are as the following:

  • Extended Validation or EV SSL certificate

This is the highest level of SSL security protocol in terms of using international standards of a comprehensive identity verification process.

After installing this certificate, the https:// phrase, a padlock icon, the country, and the company name are displayed in the URL address bar. Using this certificate is the best way to prevent phishing and hacking the sensitive information from applications and websites.

  • Organization Validated or OV SSL certificate

This is the second most trusted certification after the EV SSL, which helps to encrypt sensitive data during transactions.

The OV SSL provides an additional verification by displaying the official name of the relevant organization by clicking on the padlock icon. This prevents the misuse of the company name by a third party and helps the users feel more secure.

  • Domain Validated or DV SSL certificate

In this type of security certificate, the providers will validate and verify your domain name. While encrypting communications, they make sure the domain is at the disposal of the applicant.

  • Wildcard or WV SSL certificate

These kinds of certificates provide secure communication with main domains and their unlimited subdomains. A Wildcard certificate is much more affordable than several single-domain SSL certificates.

  • Multi-Domain or MD SSL certificate

Using this certificate, you can secure up to 100 different domains and subdomains. In addition, you can have the Subject Alternative Name (SAN) section to add, change or delete the SANs if necessary. All of the above certificates are also included in this type of SSL.

  • Unified Communications or UCC Certificate

These certificates are also considered multi-domain SSL. UCC was originally designed to secure Microsoft Exchange and Live Communications servers; however, today all websites can use Unified Communications certificates.

 

What is a TLS certificate?

Those who are wondering what is TLS certificate better know that TLS stands for Transport Layer Security, which is a newer version of the SSL certificate.

This certificate has originally designed to create secure communications at the application layer and to develop the HTTPS protocol.

To make a client-server connection secured by this protocol, it is necessary for the user to specify that he wants to use TLS at the time of the request.

Then, the TLS handshake process will perform. During this process, the two communication parties agree on a common key using asymmetric cryptography.

After this step, the encryption process will perform for all the data transferred between the client and the server using a common key at the source. Obviously, the decryption process will also perform at the destination.

Due to the existing vulnerabilities, ensuring access to the most accurate settings and the most secure communication methods requires using the latest versions of TLS.

 

SSL vs TLS

Difference between SSL and TLS?

To understand the difference between SSL and TLS certificates, it is necessary to know that SSL certificates use symmetric encryption to create a secure link between two systems. Symmetric cryptography is a simple and high-speed method when it comes to data transfer.

However, the TLS protocol uses an asymmetric encryption method that makes it difficult to access information for hackers. In addition, the process is more time-consuming than SSL. As a result, the TLS protocol encryption algorithm is more powerful than the SSL security protocol.

Moreover, the ports used in SSL and TLS protocols are different. The main difference between these certifications is that TLS is more secure and efficient when creating public key and authentication messages.

 

What type of SSL certificate do I need?

You probably ask what kind of SSL certificate do I need? First, you need an SSL to present your website as a legitimate one and keep the users’ data safe. This is especially important for online store owners. Every valid SSL certificate creates a secure link and encrypts the information exchanged between the host server and the user.

Therefore, regardless of the type of certification that would meet your first expectation, choosing the right one will largely depend on the type of website and its unique needs.

For example, if you have a personal website that only includes your resume; or if you use your website just for sharing some information with the audience the best choice for you is a DV certificate.

Domain Validated certificate is more cost-effective. Therefore, you will not need to verify your company information to access this certificate.

If you own a company, organization, or NGO, you should choose OV certification. In this way, visitors will be sure of your company name as soon as they enter your website and click on the name of the certificate.

There is another technical possibility called wild card, which works with DV and OV certifications. By providing a single certificate, it contributes to the security of all sub-domains and the main domain of the website.

 

Why do you need an SSL certificate?

As a website owner, you need an SSL certificate to create a secure link between your website and users’ devices and protect sensitive information from cyber-attacks.

Through insecure connections, hackers around the world try to access clients’ sensitive information and use them to their own advantage.

SSL helps to secure login authorizations, bank accounts,s or personal information in addition to many other important documents.

Did you know that Google would show your website does not have an SSL certificate as not secure to users?

If many people see something like that, it really reduces the trust of that website. In addition, Google has started to make secure websites more of a ranking factor. Meaning if you do not have SSL on your site then you might not rank as high as you could otherwise.

 

How to get a free SSL certificate?

To get a free SSL certificate you need to sign up for any of the following websites and select the required option in the setting:

Let’s Encrypt is a popular, automated, and Free SSL certificate provided by the Internet Security Research Group. This free SSL certificate was launched and supported by giant companies such as Google Chrome, Amazon, Facebook, and Cisco. You can use the installation tutorial to install Let Encrypt SSL on CentOS 8.

Cloudflare also is another company that is offering free SSL and TLS certificates among multiple domains.

SSL For Free offers completely free SSL security certification using the Let’s Encrypt ACME server within minutes.

ZeroSSL offers 90 days free SSL certificate instantly. To do so, you just need to enter some details and pass an immediate authentication process. After three months, you can repeat this process and get your free SSL again.

 

SSL certificate providers

There are many SSL certificate providers; some of them are as follows:

Certum is a Polish-based company, which works in the digital security field. It is the largest and oldest SSL certification provider currently serving more than 50 countries.

Comodo SSL is a successful SSL provider, which offers affordable prices.

Entrust is an American reputable company that works in the field of digital security and provides SSL certificates in a quick and smooth manner.

GlobalSign is a well-known company focused on organizational customers and those looking for PKI deployment.

GoDaddy is a giant Web hosting company that also provides SSL with distinctive services and highly affordable prices.

 

To use and set up an SSL certificate, you must first have a Linux VPS or a Windows VPS, and if you do not already have one, you must buy and install a VPS server on which you can use our services to buy a VPS server.

 

How to check SSL certificates?

In order to check SSL certificates you need to use the following methods:

  • Be sure the URL address begins with https://
  • Check if there is a padlock icon in the address bar or not?
  • Click on the padlock icon and study the SSL information
  • Use the SSL checker websites such as https://www.sslshopper.com/ssl-checker.html

 

Summary

Using an SSL certificate is one of the safest ways to help establish a secure connection between the web server and the client. At the same time, making a strong password is the most important thing to do.  Passwords are the first defense line, which helps users to ensure data security and prevent hackers from accessing their sensitive information. The strength of this barrier depends on its complexity, length, and using a diverse selection of numbers, special characters, and letters.

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About the Author Granit Emery

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