The fast-changing virtual world is no different from our real, tangible world, full of acronyms, special terminology, and jargon. It’s easy to get lost in the confusion. SSL certificates—we’ve perhaps heard the name, but do we know what they really are? In this article, we explain what SSL certificates are and how crucial they are for businesses.
SSL is the acronym for Secure Sockets Layer—a security protocol used for among other things creating an encrypted link between a web server and a web browser. In other words, it creates a safe link between a website and a browser, such as Chrome, Firefox, etc. With this secure link, data that are transferred from a web browser to a web server stay private and safe from anyone who would like to steal or use that data. So, organizations and businesses include SSL certificates on their websites to make online transactions secure and ensure that customer information remains private and secure too.
Since its initial inception, there have been more versions of the SSL protocol until a new name appeared called TLS or Transport Layer Security, which is still used right now. Yet SSL seems to have a better ring and the virtual community has decided to just stick with it.
Also read: How to Choose an Affordable SSL Certificate
So how do you know if a website is protected with SSL?
It is possible to check if a website is protected by SSL by merely looking at the address bar in the browser. If instead of HTTP, the URL starts with HTTPS, the site has an SSL certificate. Normally a padlock icon appears next to the URL in the address bar of the browser and by clicking on it, it is possible to see security details. If there are any issues of a website not being secure, a red padlock or an open padlock may appear, or even a line could cross out the website address with warning triangles. Additionally, it’s possible to use a handy online tool that can check it very quickly too.
How does the SSL process work?
The SSL process or SSL handshake takes place in less than a blink of an eye. SSL makes any data that are transferred and therefore shared between websites and users or two systems completely unreadable. Encryption algorithms scramble up all the data, such as names, addresses, or financial information. This makes it all impossible to be read by prying and unwanted eyes—cybercriminals.
Why do websites need SSL certificates?
Businesses and organizations need to avoid any potential security gaps and issues on their websites. Websites that require the exchange of data with clients or visitors need SSL certificates. These could be an online store where customer data such as addresses, telephone numbers, or credit card details are provided for orders. They could also be websites that request contact details on a contact form.
SSL certificates generally include and display visitors’ details such as the domain name, company name, and full address details, so it is clear to everyone, who owns the site. Each certificate also displays the Certification Authority that issued the certificate as well as its expiration date.
A question of trust
Let’s face it, we have all had that terrible sinking feeling that we just picked up a computer virus or maybe downloaded a trojan to our machine. Everything goes so quickly and it’s then all too late. Maybe if we had taken more care, installed an anti-virus… switched on that firewall. All internet users (and potential customers) want to feel safe. So, it’s vital that website owners have valid SSL certificates for their sites to ensure that feeling of trust. Don’t forget to keep up with the latest in cybersecurity too.