Are you a website owner seeking to know more about an SSL certificate and how to protect your website with SSL certificates, whether paid or free SSL certificate? We can understand your thirst, especially as online security is more important than ever in today’s digital age. Here, you will access the knowledge you need to stay safe online.
With the increase in cyber-attacks and data breaches, it is crucial to understand how SSL certificates work and why they are necessary to secure online communication.
This article provides a comprehensive overview of SSL certificates, from how they work to why they are crucial to protecting your customers’ sensitive personal or contact information, their role in the SSL/TLS protocol, and the process of issuing and renewing them.
Understanding SSL/TLS Protocol
To understand how SSL certificates work, we must understand the SSL/TLS protocol. SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) is a security protocol developed by Netscape in the mid-1990s to secure online communication. It has since been replaced by the more secure TLS (Transport Layer Security) protocol, but SSL is still used interchangeably with TLS.
The SSL/TLS protocol uses encryption to protect data in transit. When a user connects to a website using SSL/TLS, their browser, and the website’s server establish a secure connection. This secure connection is created through a process known as a “handshake.”
During the handshake, the browser and server agree on cryptographic algorithms for encrypting and decrypting data. Once the secure connection is established, all data transmitted between the browser and server is encrypted and protected from unauthorized access.
What is an SSL Certificate?
An SSL certificate is a digital certificate issued by a trusted third-party organization called Certificate Authority (CA). The SSL certificate is used to verify a website’s identity and establish a secure connection between the website’s server and the user’s browser.
In other words, an SSL certificate acts as a digital “passport” that proves that the website is legitimate and that the personal data being transmitted between the user and the website is encrypted and secure.
Different types of SSL certificates are available, each providing varying security and validation levels. The most common types of SSL certificates are Domain Validated (DV), Organization Validated (OV), and Extended Validation (EV).
DV certificates only validate the domain name, while OV and EV certificates validate the domain name and the organization behind the website.
How SSL Certificates are Issued
To obtain an SSL certificate, a website owner must first generate a Certificate Signing Request (CSR), which contains information about the website and its domain name. Afterward, the CSR is submitted to a Certificate Authority (CA) for verification. The CA will then verify the information in the CSR and issue an SSL certificate if the website owner passes the verification process.
The verification process for SSL certificates varies depending on the type of SSL certificate. For DV certificates, the verification process is usually automated and can be completed in minutes. However, the verification process is more rigorous and can take several days to complete for OV and EV certificates.
When a CA issues an SSL certificate, it also includes a public key that can be used to encrypt data sent to the website. The private key, used to decrypt the data, is kept on the website’s server and is not shared with anyone else.
Installing an SSL Certificate
Once an SSL certificate has been issued, you must install it on your website’s server. Installing an SSL certificate involves configuring the server to use HTTPS instead of HTTP and configuring the server to SSL/TLS protocol to encrypt data.
The installation process of an SSL certificate can vary depending on the server software and hosting provider used.
Most web hosting providers offer a tool or service to help website owners install SSL certificates on their servers. Some providers even offer free SSL certificates through initiatives like Let’s Encrypt.
You can issue a free certificate that will be more secure than paid one. But as for paid – your CA grants a warranty for OV and EV certificates. So if someone steals information using this certificate the CA will pay this person whose data was stolen.
Renewing SSL Certificates
SSL certificates have an expiration date, typically one to three years. Thus, you must renew SSL certificates to ensure your website remains secure and users can access it without issues.
Moreover, you can renew most SSL certificates by submitting a renewal request to the Certificate Authority or at a certification center. The renewal process is similar to the initial issuance process and requires the website owner to verify their domain and identity.
Why SSL Certificates are Important
SSL certificates are essential for several reasons. First, they provide a secure and encrypted connection between the user’s browser and the website’s server, ensuring sensitive information like passwords, credit card numbers, and personal data or contact information are protected from hackers and other unauthorized third parties.
SSL certificates also play a role in building trust with website visitors. For instance, your website will display a padlock icon in the browser’s address bar, and the URL begins with “https” instead of “http” when your website has an SSL certificate. These visual cues signal to users that your website is legitimate and that their data is safe.
SSL certificates are also vital for SEO. In 2014, Google announced it would use HTTPS as a ranking signal in its search algorithms.
As a result, websites that use HTTPS are slightly boosted in search rankings, which can translate into more traffic and higher conversions.
If you want a safe and reliable website, installing at least one SSL certificate becomes necessary because they are essential for online security.
Further, they provide a secure and encrypted connection between your user’s browser and your website’s server, thus, helping you build trust with your website’s visitors and improve search rankings.
Moreover, remember that there is SSL certificate management best practices. Therefore, we recommend understanding how SSL certificates work and how to obtain and renew them if you own or operate a website.
Finally, every website owner can ensure their websites remain secure and that their users’ personal data is protected from cyber-attacks and data breaches by following best practices for SSL certificate management.