One indispensable element takes center stage - the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) Certificate. This technology encrypts the information flowing between a user's browser and a web server. In this discussion, we will explore the intricacies of SSL Certificates, exploring what they are, how they operate, and their role in safeguarding user-sensitive information on your website.
What is an SSL Certificate?
An SSL Certificate, or Secure Socket Layer Certificate, is a standard security protocol that encrypts communication between a user's browser and a web server. This ensures that the data transmitted between the user and the server cannot be intercepted or read by unauthorized third parties.
How does an SSL Certificate operate?
When a user visits a website fortified with SSL, a secure connection is established between their browser and the web server. Let’s delve into the process:
Request for a secure connection: The user's browser requests a secure connection to the web server.
Certificate verification: The web server sends its SSL Certificate for verification by the user's browser.
Session key generation: Unique session keys are generated for that specific interaction.
Data encryption: All data transmitted between the browser and the server is encrypted, meaning only the user's browser and the server can decrypt it.
Establishment of the secure connection: The secure connection is established, and protected communication begins.
Importance of an SSL Certificate for Online Security
An SSL Certificate is essential for maintaining a secure website, especially for user data, and preventing hackers from creating counterfeit versions of the site.
An SSL Certificate is crucial for online security for several reasons:
Privacy protection: It acts as a blockade, preventing confidential data such as credit card information and passwords from being intercepted by hackers.
Building trust: Website visitors look at the green padlock or green address bar in their browsers, signaling a secure connection and increasing user trust.
SEO Boost: Search engines, Google prioritize secure SSL-enabled websites in their search rankings.
Types of SSL Certificates
SSL certificates come in a variety of levels, each ranging from basic to high-security:
Single Domain SSL Certificates: Protect a single web domain.
Extended Validation (EV) SSL Certificates: Provide the highest level of security and activate the green address bar.
Wildcard SSL Certificates: Safeguard a domain and all its subdomains.
There are several reasons why websites may lose their SSL certificate. Common reasons include:
Certificate expiration: SSL certificates typically have an expiration date around one to two years. If not renewed on time, the certificate expires, resulting in the website losing SSL protection.
Change of hosting provider or server: Changing hosting providers or servers may require obtaining a new SSL certificate for the new environment, as SSL certificates are linked to a specific domain or server.
Domain name change: Changing a website’s name requires a new SSL certificate for the new domain, as SSL certificates are linked to domain names and are non-transferable.
Issues with the Certificate Authority (CA): If the CA issuing the SSL certificate becomes untrustworthy or experiences security issues, replacing the certificate with one from a different CA may be necessary.
Lack of automatic renewal: Even if hosting services and SSL certificate providers offer automatic certificate renewal, failure to enable or address issues can result in the certificate expiring without notice.
Payment issues: Non-payment of the SSL certificate renewal fee on time may lead to the certificate being revoked by the certificate authority.
Voluntary revocation: Website owners may voluntarily revoke their SSL certificate, for example, if it is no longer needed or if significant changes occur on the website.
Policy violations: Violating the policies of the CA that issued the certificate may lead to the revocation of the SSL certificate.
A website protected by an SSL certificate displays the acronym “HTTPS” in its URL, signifying “HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure”. This “HTTPS” designation indicates a secure and encrypted connection, enhancing user confidence and ensuring the protection of sensitive data. In the absence of this certificate, only ‘HTTP’ is visible, lacking the 'S' denoting ‘secure’.
Many website creators such as Gila CMS offer SSL certificates for all the websites built on their platform, ensuring increased trustworthiness, and providing reassurance and security to visitors.
About the Author
Gila CMS is a software development company that develops digital tools for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to improve their performance and productivity. They also provide an open source content management system, and a website builder for businesses.