Online security has always been essential, but these days the ways of data theft are getting more advanced and more frequent. This is where SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) Certificates come into play. Every day, millions of bytes of data are transferred across the globe, and in this constant exchange, the safety of this data is of utmost importance. In this blog, we’ll explore what they are, why they are needed, and how you can set one up for your website.
What is an SSL Certificate?
SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) Certificates are a security protocol for protecting sensitive information. They act as a safeguard for your data when it is in transit between websites and servers, ensuring that your personal information, like credit card numbers, passwords and other sensitive information is transmitted securely and is safe from being intercepted or changed.
An SSL is hosted in a website’s origin server that verifies a website’s identity and enables an encrypted connection between a web server and a web browser. The SSL is issued by a Certificate Authority (CA). A CA verifies and authenticates the identity and ownership of websites or servers then issues the certificate. SSLs work by encrypting the data, preventing it from being read as it is sent over the connection.
SSLs can encrypt data because of the public-private key pairing that occurs when users access a site. Clients (such as web browsers) get the public key necessary to open a connection from a server’s SSL certificate.
Public and private keys used for SSL are long strings of characters implemented for encrypting and signing data. When data is encrypted with the public key, it can only be decrypted with the corresponding private key. Think of it like a digital handshake.
SSL certificates also verify that a client is talking to the server that owns the domain. This helps prevent domain spoofing where someone has created a fake website to con users into downloading malware, stealing credit card information and other kinds of phishing attacks.
Note: The SSL protocol has become outdated and public key certificates are now based on the Transport Layer Security (TLS) protocol. However, as online industry is familiar with the terminology of SSL Certificates, it is still referred to as such.
Types of SSL Certificates
There are multiple types of SSL certificates, each with a specific application for various kinds of websites and domains. Here are a few examples of the most commonly used types:
DV (Domain Validated) SSL Certificate
A DV SSL is the most common type of SSL used. It is affordable, offers essential encryption to both user and site owner, and thanks to simple verification process, the certificate gets issued quickly.
OV (Organization Validated) SSL Certificate
An OV SSL is the preferred SSL for e-commerce websites. It not only encrypts data but also validates the business behind the website and the business details are displayed on the certificate. Issuing these SSLs takes longer due to the business’s details needing verification by a CA.
EV (Extended Validation) SSL Certificate
EV SSLs offer the highest level of security. Websites with EV SSL certificates are identified by a green URL address bar in the browser. Obtaining an EV SSL involves a thorough validation of company ownership and domain name ownership and can be a lengthy process, but it ensures utmost authenticity and trustworthiness.
Wildcard SSLs secure multiple subdomains. Subdomains are prefixes to your main domain name, for example, a site with the domain “example.com” could have the subdomain “store.example.com.” They can be issued for both DV and OV SSLs, making them a simple, cost-effective choice for businesses with multiple subdomains.
SAN SSL Certificate
San SSL Certificate is a Subject Alternative Name and is similar in concept to Wildcard, as it allows multiple domains to be added in that it allows multiple domains to be added.
Why is an SSL Certificate Needed?
Keeping data secure is essential to maintaining the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of data. By obtaining security measures, companies can help protect their valuable assets, meet compliance requirements, and maintain customer trust in the company’s brand. Data breaches can cost millions of dollars in both remediation and losing customers after a data breach. Data breaches can also expose a company to legal action, fines, and cause massive damage to its reputation.
SSL helps to protect users by encrypting any data that goes between a user and a web server, ensuring that anyone who intercepts the data can only see a scrambled mess of characters. It encrypts user sessions, protecting personal information. SSLs also secure websites and users from a range of attacks, including eavesdropping, impersonation, data theft, identity theft, and Man-in-the-middle attacks.
Websites need SSL certificates to convey trust to users. If a website is asking users to sign in, enter personal details such as their credit card numbers, or view confidential information, then it is essential that businesses keep that data confidential. SSL certificates help keep online interactions private and assure users that the website is authentic and safe to share sensitive information with.
For businesses this is even more important because an SSL certificate is required for an HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) web address as described earlier. Most browsers tag HTTP sites as not secure and that they may not be trustworthy. Additionally, they will warn users not to navigate to them, potentially preventing them from using the site, resulting in lower site traffic and lost sales.
Having an SSL certificate helps to secure information such as:
- Usernames and passwords
- Credit card and bank details
- Personal information
- Legal documents
- Medical records
- Proprietary information
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) Benefit
Another reason to get an SSL certificate is that it can help improve your site’s search engine ranking (SEO). Google has stated that they give preference to sites that use an SSL, so if you’re looking to improve your SEO, getting an SSL certificate is an effective way to help your website appear higher up in search engine results.
How to Tell if a Website has an SSL Certificate
Checking to see if a website has an SSL certificate is simple, just look in your browser’s search bar when you visit a site for the following:
The URL should say “https://” and not “http://”. An SSL-encrypted website will always have the “S” that stands for “Secure.”
The Padlock Icon
In addition to the “https://” part of the URL, a padlock icon will appear in your browser bar next to the URL. Depending on your browser, the padlock will show up on the left or right side of the URL bar. You can click on the padlock to read more information about the website and the certificate’s details.
Even if a website has the https:// and a padlock, the certificate could be expired — meaning your connection wouldn’t be secure. In most cases, a site that displays as https will be secure but, if you encounter a site that asks for a lot of personal information, it may be worth double-checking to be sure the certificate is valid just to be on the safe side.
If you want to view a site’s SSL certificate’s details, click on the padlock symbol in your browser’s address bar. The details typically included within SSL certificates include:
- The domain name that the certificate was issued for.
- Who the SSL was issued to.
- Which CA issued it.
- The CA’s digital signature.
- Any associated subdomains.
- The issue and expiry dates of the SSL.
- The public key. (The private key is kept hidden)
How to Set Up an SSL Certificate with Hosted.com
To purchase an SSL certificate, you will need to decide on the type that suits your site best. The cost of SSL certificates varies, depending on the level of security you require and how many domains and subdomains you need one for.
- Once you have decided on the SSL certificate you want to purchase, add it to your cart, and complete the checkout process.
- Once your purchase is complete, navigate to your Hosted.com Dashboard, click on “Manage Services” in the menu on the right, and select “SSL Certificates” from the dropdown.
- Click on Configure next to the SSL certificate you have purchased and choose the domain you want to use it for.
- On the next screen, click on “Auto Generate CSR – A CSR (Certificate Signing Request) will be generated on the server where the SSL will be installed.
Note: A CSR generates the private key needed for your site’s public key and establishes a connection between your server’s public key and the CA. This connection ensures that the SSL certificate issued is valid for your specific domain.
- The private key will be generated. Copy, and paste it into the server location of your domain and confirm.
- You will then receive an email asking you to approve the installation (this can take up to 10 minutes).
- Once you’ve approved the installation, the process is complete.
You can check if the SSL certificate is installed on your server by clicking on the padlock icon in the address bar of your website. In the pop-up window, select Certificate (Valid) to view the certificate details.
Keep in mind, the length it takes to receive your certificate depends on what type of certificate you get, and the amount of verification needed for it to be issued. For example, a DV SSL certificate can be issued within minutes of being ordered, whereas EV SSL certificates can take up to a full week due to the amount of documentation needing verification.
- SSL certificates are crucial for secure internet transactions and protecting customer information.
- SSL certificates are digital certificates that authenticate the identity of a website and encrypt information sent to the server using SSL technology.
- SSL certificates are essential for protecting user information, potentially improving SEO, and building trust with visitors.
- SSL certificates are a critical component of internet security and trust-building with users, and every business should consider using them.
- Setting up an SSL involves obtaining the certificate, installing it on the server, and verifying its installation.
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