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What is SSL? How does it protect a website?

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  • 5 min read

Data exchange and sharing of information to various websites for transactions or any other purpose is a compulsory requirement for all modern websites now. Sharing data with these websites seems safe and secure, doesn’t it?

Well, Secure Socket Layers (SSL) plays a significant role in helping them do so. These security layers make sure that all data exchanged between the user and the website is securely transacted and encrypted.

They have now become a must-have addition to all websites. SSL link with your domain key and install SSL certificates to protect your website. SSL certificates come in the form of subscriptions and need to be updated or renewed as and when required.

In this article, we will be digging deeper into SSLs and how they work.

Also read: Are free VPNs secure? Should you use them?

What is an SSL and how does it work?

The security technology used industry-wide to create an encrypted link between the browser and the web server is called SSL (Secure Sockets Layer). It ensures that all of the data transferred between the browser and web server stays private.

SSL is an industry standard security and is used by tens of thousands of websites in the protection of their online transactions with their users.

You must first acquire a certificate and install it on your web server. Certificates are always installed on pages that require end-users to submit confidential information over the internet like credit card or debit card details and passwords.

What are SSL certificates and its types?

Internet Safety: HTTP vs HTTPS; Should you trust HTTPS?

As explained earlier on how SSLs help in keeping all the transacted data on your website protected and encrypted, SSL certificates are needed to be installed on your website to keep it safe.

Authentic and trusted SSL Certificates are generated by the Certificate Authorities (CAs) and are available in three basic types – Domain Validated, Organization Validated and Extended Validation.

  • Domain Validated – These certificates are usually the least expensive and are issued after the CA has verified that the owner of the website has control of the domain name being used in the certificate.
  • Organization Validated – These certificates are issued after the CA has verified domain control and has executed background checks into the company that owns the website.
  • Extended Validation – These certificates offer the highest level of security and trust to the end-user of these SSL certificates. It also shows the locking of a padlock symbol which indicates that the website is secure. The HTTP also changes to HTTPs, where the “s” stands for security. EV certificates are issued according to the guidelines laid by the CA.

Also read: Internet Safety: Should you trust HTTPS? HTTP vs HTTPS

What are the SSL protocols and its phases?

The SSL handshake protocol is the process of exchange of different parameters between the server and the client. This protocol is used before the application data is received. It is mainly carried out in four phases:

  • Phase 1: Establishing securing capabilities
  • Phase 2: Server authentication and key exchange
  • Phase 3: Client authentication and key exchange
  • Phase 4: Finalising handshake protocol

The SSL record protocol is the process that retrieves data from the user applications, encrypts it, fragments it to an appropriate size, and sends it to the network transport layer.

Do you need an SSL certificate? And where to get one?

Photo by Nicole De Khors

Yes, if you own a website that handles user information, you definitely need an SSL certificate to make sure your customer’s data integrity is not at risk.

Your website host should usually provide you with the details for the SSL certificates for your website, or the developer who helped build your website may assist you as well. Typically, these certificates come with validity limited to a specific period.

One can get annual subscriptions for SSL certificates. There are plenty of good and trusted providers available on the market that are highly reputed and will provide the best SSL certificates to protect your website. Some names include GoDaddy, Hostgator, Digicert and many more.

Should you get free SSL certification?

The market is flooded with free SSL certificate providers, and we do not recommend going for them as they can be highly unreliable and they often do not support large domains.

Using free SSL certificates — when you know there are a lot of transactions that are carried out on your website — is putting all your users’ confidential data in jeopardy. So, in short, it’s not worth the risk.

Also read: What are browser cookies? Why are they needed? Types of Cookies

Rajiv Kulkarni

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