A Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate is a data file hosted in a website’s origin server. This technology, commonly referred to as TLS, is a protocol that encrypts internet traffic by verifying a website’s server identity.
Simply put, any website that uses an HTTPS web address has an SSL/TLS certificate. The advancement in technology has given more impetus to cybercrime, which means that people and organizations are more susceptible to lose sensitive information online. This works because the SSL certificate will authenticate all public devices attempting to communicate with a website’s server. By doing so, every public device is allocated a private key, which is secret and secure, to verify a server’s identity.
This article will explore the different types of SSL certificates, the importance of SSL certificates, the online entities that must have them, and where you can obtain this technology. Read on to find out.
How important are website SSL certificates?
SSL certificates are a website security technology that guarantees the protected and secure exchange of information between a website’s server and the client’s device. The communication between the server and the accessing device is usually encrypted to prevent unauthorized accessibility by third parties outside the network.
Cybercrime is at an all-time high, and the advancements in technology in part enable that. As a result, most virtual businesses use SSL technology to protect their customers’ and businesses ‘ sensitive information from getting into the hands of third parties such as hackers.
Overall, a website requires an SSL certificate to protect and secure users’ data, verify its identity and ownership and prevent hackers from impersonating the website and stealing user information.
Functions of SSL certificates
First and foremost, before a device can initiate secure and protected communication with a website’s server, an SSL certificate is required. After a secure connection has been established between the server and the device, an SSL certificate comes in handy to perform the following functions:
- It will establish a website’s authenticity to ensure that site users’ information is secure and protected.
- An SSL certificate will provide a secure layer of protection to the confidential information transmitted between a web server and a client’s web browser.
Type of information encrypted by an SSL certificate
- User’s financial information such as bank details, credit card numbers, expiration dates, and CVV codes.
- Account login details, that is, usernames and passwords.
- Legal documents and contracts.
- Customer profile information.
- Medical records.
- Personal information such as customer names, dates of birth, mailing and billing addresses, social security numbers, et cetera.
Types of SSL certificates
Website SSL certificates can be classified based on the number of domain names and subdomains owned by a client. Based on that, SSL certificates can be classified into the following categories:
- Multi-Domain SSL certificate
This type of SSL certificate simultaneously covers multiple domain or subdomain names.
- Single SSL certificate
Single SSL certificates are used to secure and authenticate singular domain or subdomain names.
- Wildcard SSL certificate
A single domain name and a number of its subdomains that are fully authenticated are secured by using a wildcard SSL certificate.
Furthermore, SSL certificates can be classified based on their function as follows:
- SSL server certificate
It is used to establish a secure server connection. All website servers must provide this certificate before authentication can be established.
- EMV certificate
This SSL certificate is specifically aimed to secure payment cards. It’s used to verify payment details on a card during a transaction as initiated by a client.
- Email certificate
An email certificate is a type of SSL certificate that websites use to secure emails by first validating an email recipient’s authenticity.
- Code signing certificate
This certificate’s role is to verify program signatures to confirm that they were not interfered with during delivery.
- SSL client certificate
This is an SSL certificate from the client-side that is used to provide access and control over permission. It permits the server to complete the connection setup. A client’s name, contact information, and email address are the most common details captured on an SSL client certificate.
How can site visitors tell your website has an SSL certificate?
When users visit your website, there are four key visual clues they look out for to determine the legitimacy of your website, namely:
- HTTPS URL prefix instead of HTTP.
- Trust seals.
- Green address bars.
- Padlock located on the left-hand side of a URL.
What entities need SSL certificates?
All entities that use their websites to analyze, store, process, or portray sensitive data about their customers or their operations need an SSL certificate. Failure to do so will be exposing tons of confidential information at risk of being stolen or tampered with by hackers.
How a website can obtain an SSL certificate
Obtaining valid SSL certificates is not easy. First and foremost, for an SSL to be valid, the website domain has to get it from a certificate authority (CA). A Certificate Authority (CA) is a trusted third-party organization that creates and gives out SSL certificates. The organization will also sign the certificate with their private keys, thus allowing user devices to verify it. The CA will issue out SSL certificates at a fee.
After the CA has issued the certificate, the website owner has to install and activate it on the website’s origin server. However, you wouldn’t have to do that by yourself as some web hosting services handle that on behalf of their clients.
After installing and activating the origin server, the website will start loading all traffic over HTTPS in an encrypted and secure manner.
The bottom line
The advancement in technology and the Internet over the last couple of decades has given more impetus to cybercrime. As such, users and website owners are more worried than ever about the risk of pertinent infringement. That is how website SSL certificates come in handy.
When you visit any website, the first thing to do is verify the authenticity before filling in any information. Protecting users is every web owners’ responsibility: That is why every website owner should strive to ensure their website has SSL certificates. This is so because SSL certificates provide encryption to all data provided and enable site visitors to verify the site’s legitimacy.