How SSL Certificates Work

Learn how Secure Sockets Layer or SSL works, how it can help secure your website.

Internet security is a valuable component for all online enterprises and personal users as well. For those who are engaged in online businesses, this is critical to protect confidential information and ensure that online financial transactions and payments are protected. It is important to prove to visitors and clients that your website is legitimate and secure. This protection can only be achieved through SSL certificates.

Overview of SSL

SSL refers to Secure Sockets Layer which was created by Netscape for exclusive and secure document transmission. Netscape Communications is a computer services firm based in the United States that developed the first successful web browser for commercial purposes. The system of cryptographic authentication used by SSL has private and public keys for data encryption. Only the message recipient has access to both keys. The public key converts the text into codes to prevent unauthorized persons from seeing private messages. The private key is used to decipher the message.

The SSL certificate allows websites to encode restricted information for online deals particularly sending payments through credit cards, purchasing products from online retailers and using online banking. The certification is unique for every website and issued by an SSL certificate authority which checks the owner’s identity prior to issuance. Certificate authorities confirm the domain name seeking a certificate. Users are advised to check if the certificate authority is of good standing before completing any online transaction.

Encryption and Security (SSL and TSL)

Experts say that one of the drawbacks of public key encryption is that two users require a secure way to communicate with one another. If not, an attacker can pick out data from the stream without any difficulty. This is the reason for using two keys. You can distinguish if you are using secure protocol such as the SSL which is part of Transport Layer Security or TLS. You will become aware of the “http” in the address line. “Https,” will replace this and by the time the change takes place, the user will notice the tiny padlock in the status bar below the browser window. This format will normally change if you access classified information like PayPal and Google payment transfer services or online banking. It is a way of knowing that your information will be secured.

Secure Sockets Layer makes considerable use of certificate authorities. This is vital to ensuring a secure site. When your browser asks for a secure page and adds an “s” into the “http”, the browser transmits the certificate and public key. This will validate three important things:

  • Certificate is provided by a trusted party.
  • The certificate is presently valid.
  • The certificate has an existing relationship with the website from which it came.

The padlock sign is an indication that you are making use of coded data. The browser employs the public key to encode the chosen symmetric key. This type of encryption requires extensive computing. Thus, majority of current systems opt for a fusion of public and symmetric key encoding. This is the one of the keys in maintaining a secure website.