SSL stands for “Secure Sockets Layer“. It is a technology that establishes a secure session link between the visitor’s web browser and your web site so that all communications transmitted through this link are encrypted and are, therefore, secure. SSL is also used for transmitting secure email, secure files, and other forms of information.
An SSL Certificate
An SSL Certificate is a digital computer file (or small piece of code) that has two specific functions:
1. Authentication and Verification: The SSL Certificate has information about the authenticity of certain details regarding the identity of a person, business or website, which it will display to visitors on your web site when they click on the browser’s padlock symbol or trust mark. The vetting criteria used to determine if an SSL Certificate should be issued are most stringent with an Extended Validation (EV) SSL Certificate; making it the most trusted SSL Certificate available.
2. Data Encryption: The SSL Certificate also enables encryption, which means that the sensitive information exchanged via the web site cannot be intercepted and read by anyone other than the intended recipient.
In the same way that a physical identity document or passport may only be issued by the relevant country’s government officials, an SSL Certificate is most reliable when issued by a trusted Certificate Authority (CA). The CA has to follow very strict rules and policies about who may or may not receive an SSL Certificate. Therefore, when you have a valid SSL Certificate from a trusted CA, there is a higher degree of trust.
In the same way that you lock and unlock doors and other things using a key, encryption makes use of keys to lock and unlock your information. Unless you have the right key required, you will not be able to “open” the information.
Each SSL session consists of two keys:
1. The public key is used to encrypt (jumble up) the information.
2. The private key is used to decrypt (un-jumble) the information and restore it to its original format so that it can be read.
The Process: Every SSL Certificate is issued for a specific server and web site domain (web site address) for a CA-verified entity. When a person uses their browser to navigate to the address of a web site with an SSL Certificate, an SSL handshake (greeting) occurs between the browser and server. Information is requested from the server-which is then made visible to the person in their browser. You will notice changes in your browser. If you click on the trust mark, you will see additional information such as the validity period of the SSL Certificate, the domain secured, the type of SSL Certificate, and the issuing CA. A secure link is established for that session, with a unique session key, and secure communications can begin.
Use An SSL Certificate
You would use an SSL Certificate anywhere that you wish to transmit information securely. Here are some examples:
- Securing communication between your web site and your customer’s Internet browser.
- Securing internal communications on your corporate intranet.
- Securing email communications sent to and from your network (or private email address).
- Securing information between servers (both internal and external).
- Securing information sent and received via mobile devices.