At the present day, most of the people have heard of SSL certificate or SSL encryption and know its importance, but even now some are unaware of it. The significant increase in the number of cyberattacks makes it essential for common people to get familiar with SSL encryption and how to use it on their websites.
What is an SSL certificate?
SSL or Secure Sockets Layer certificate is a type of digital certificate which is issued by Certificate Authority (CA) to an individual or organizational website to implement SSL protocol. Once CA issues a digital certificate to you, it gets installed on the server where your website is hosted and the URL of your website turns from HTTP to HTTPS i.e form non-secure connection to a secure connection. Your website URL shows a green padlock at the very left of Address bar which states that your website is encrypted through SSL protocol.
Now coming to Digital certificate. A digital certificate is very much similar to a physical certificate issued by a university. University has record or details of all the students enrolled in it. It gives the certificate when a student completes his/her course, stating that he/she has completed the course from the university along with the university seal. In case of a digital certificate, we approach to a Certificate Authority(CA) with our registered domain name.
CA is a highly trusted third party entity which issues a digital certificate to all websites. The format of these certificates is specified by X.509 standard. There exists several CA’s or digital certificate providers namely Comodo, DigiCert, GoDaddy, Symantec, Verisign, GlobalSign and many more.
How CA creates a certificate?
CA collects the necessary information and authenticates it that the domain belongs to that individual. Later, it creates a certificate including common fields such as serial number, Issuer, an algorithm used to encrypt CA’s private key, expiry date etc. In the process of creating a certificate, CA embeds its private key into the certificate using encryption algorithm. So as soon as the certificate reaches the individual’s browser, it gets verified by decrypting it using the same CA’s public key stored on the user’s browser or in his system.
What happens when you install an SSL certificate?
After installing an SSL certificate, all the web traffic gets encrypted as it travels towards the web server and vice-versa. In other words, you can imagine that the traffic flows through an end-to-end encryption tunnel. The advantage is that it prevents interception of data during transmission and the possible man-in-the-middle (MITM) attacks.
The other use could be to gain the trust of visitors on the website. Using HTTPS protocol ensures visitors about the trustworthiness of the website.
Note: SSL encryption only ensures that the transmission of traffic between browser and server is encrypted. However, how the data is stored at the server entirely depends on the server owner. He can store it encrypted or unencrypted.
If you want to know how to apply SSL encryption to a WordPress website then read this post
Different types of SSL certificates
The applications of SSL have been increased with increase in the usage of SSL.
There are mainly three types of SSL certificates based on the validation level:
- Domain validation(DV) certificates
- Organization validation(OV) certificates
- Extended Validation(EV) certificates
Domain validation certificate offers the lowest level of validation in which the CA only verifies that the individual is the owner of the domain. It is done by making changes in the DNS records. This validation takes hardly a few minutes to complete. The URL bar shows a green padlock icon. This certificate is suitable for individuals.
Organization validation certificate offers a medium level of validation in which the CA verifies the organization details. The CA asks the organization for name, city and country. This validation takes a few days to complete because it involves human intervention. The URL bar shows green padlock and organization details in the certificate. This certificate is suitable for small to medium scale organizations.
Extended validation certificate offers the highest level of validation in which CA strictly follows all the protocols for authenticating an organization. It verifies ownership, physical location and legal existence of the organization. The process takes a few weeks to complete. The URL bar shows green padlock with the organization name. This certificate is suitable for large scale organizations.
SSL Certificate Infographics
From individual websites to large corporations websites, all need SSL encryption in today’s world. Google also ranks the sites with SSL encryption higher in search results. So SSL certificate is a must for possible cyberattack defence.