What are SSL Certificates?

SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) Certificates are a set of small data that give a server the capability to encrypt the files being sent to and from its user. You can easily see this in use in websites with https preceding its domain and/or a padlock in the URL text box. These are in common use in e-commerce sites, social media sites, e-mail service providers, and other data sensitive internet services.

SSL Certificates

How does it work?

To make a concrete and easy to understand example, imagine how you would normally receive your mail through the post. The credit card company would send it to the post office so they could send it to you. Then, the post office would sort through the different email it receives so they can assign these to the respective person that would go to the area that these would be delivered. After that, the postman would travel to your general area and go to your specific address to deliver your mail. The email could either be dropped off in your mail box or on your front door.

Throughout the whole process, there’s a lot of instances wherein your email could’ve been read by a person other than you. The contents of the email could’ve contained sensitive information; your social security number, date of birth, credit card details, PayPal account information, e-mail passwords, or social media account passwords. With these, a person could easily steal from your bank account or your credit card and create other fraudulent activities on behalf of your person.

The same kind of risk exists on the internet. We just take it for granted because all the information that we provide online to websites are sent with just a simple click. In fact, any information you send out can be read by any computer or server between your computer or smartphone and the intended server of the website.

With SSL certificates, the information you send out and receive are unreadable for those unauthorized to access said information. Only those who have the right SSL certificate, you and the server, can access this information. Anyone else would not be able to make heads or tails of the data you send or receive.

Why should I care about SSL Certificates online?

Aside from data encryption, SSL certificates also serve as a website’s proof of authenticity. You can easily determine whether the website you are sending information to is the right server and not one that is masquerading to steal your personal information. By simply checking the SSL certificates, you are already protected from any attempts of cyber phishing and other fraudulent acts.

If you’re looking to establish an e-commerce website or just a website for your business, it is even more important to be conscious about SSL certificates. An SSL certificate can assure your customers and visitors that their connection between your site and their browser is secure. This security could give them peace of mind to either browse your website or buy from your online store. Furthermore, if you’re looking to accept any form of credit card payment, your website is required to have a proper SSL certificate.

The Different Types of SSL Certificates

Not all SSL certificates are the same. The ones easy to obtain would mean a lesser degree of assurance for the user. But, making every SSL certificate undergo the same requirement could exceed what the website would actually need. Because of this, different SSL certificates are issued depending on what a website would need to assure its users. Of course, for better validation, this would also mean higher barriers of entry for the website. Here are the current SSL certificates being issued for websites:

Types of SSL Certificates

Domain Validated Certificate

A domain validated (DV) certificate is the most basic SSL certificate and, therefore, the least expensive to obtain from website domain service providers. It provides basic data encryption and proof of domain control.

A website domain owner can acquire this by simply providing ownership proof through a phone call or email. Because of this simple procedure for verifying, one can get a DV certificate within minutes. The drawback is that website visitors have no way of knowing who operates the website. Furthermore, any website phishing for information can also easily gain one to make it look legitimate and secure. If a website gets DNS poisoning, visitors could be redirected to a fake site with a DV certificate.  Because of this, a domain validated certificate is not enough to ensure the security of an e-commerce website.

Organizationally Validated Certificate

Like a domain validated certificate, an organizationally validated (OV) certificate also provides basic encryption and ownership verification to a website. The difference is that the verification also authenticates the owner’s details with official documents like ID’s and articles of incorporation. Websites with OV certificates are displayed in the browser as a trusted site.

However, the verification process takes a longer time to fulfill as the issuer would not only need to check owner authenticity but, also, for the legitimacy of a business. Because of this, it is the recommended SSL certificate for websites that transmit sensitive information like service providers, sales, and e-commerce.

Extended Validation Certificate

Only released in 2007, an extended validation (EV) SSL certificate provides the same encryption as domain and organizationally validated certificate. The difference, again, is in the validation process. Other than the requirements of an organizationally validated certificate, a website’s consistent reliability and quality of service are also required. Websites that have an EV SSL certificate display a green URL bar to users that visit it.

However, this could be challenging for a new and small business to acquire. Current guidelines for issuing an extended validation certificate exclude businesses that are not incorporated and new businesses that obviously lack a record of service.

Wrapping Up

Awareness of a website’s SSL certificate would go a long way to securing the information you provide through the internet. But, one should not solely rely on it. Tried and tested caution as to what you choose to share over the internet is still the ultimate safety-net you have from compromising sensitive information over the internet.

[magz_toggle title=”About Gary Braniff” state=”open”]Gary Braniff blogs about Technology Security News, Tips and How To’s. He is a computer whiz who has accrued more than twenty years of experience in the computer networking field. Based out of Mineral City, Ohio, he is a Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) and the author of https://techsecurityblog.com [/magz_toggle]
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