SSL is an acronym for Secure Sockets Layer. That is a security technology that guarantees a secure and protected exchange of information between the server and the client. The communication between two communicating parties is usually encrypted to prevent unauthorized accessibility by parties outside the network.

As advancement in technology and the Internet continues, so does the increase in cybercrime. As a result, many virtual businesses use SSL technology to prevent their customers’ or business’ sensitive information from being stolen or getting into hackers’ hands.

That being said, this article aims to educate you on what website SSL certificates are, different types of SSL certificates, online business players who need them, where you can get them, et cetera.

So What Are Website SSL Certificates?

An SSL certificate is needed to initiate safe and protected communication between a web server and a client. An SSL certificate is also called a digital certificate.

Functions of an SSL certificate

Once a secure connection between two communicating parties has been created, an SSL certificate performs two key roles:

  • First of all, it’s used to determine a website’s authenticity, and that assures website visitors that they are on a safe site where they can entrust their confidential information.
  • Secondly, an SSL certificate provides a secure layer of protection to the data transmitted between a web server and a web browser.

That being said,

What type of data does an SSL certificate encrypt?

  • Financial information like bank account details, credit card numbers, expiration dates, and CVV codes.
  • Personal information includes customer names, dates of birth, mailing and billing addresses, social security numbers, et cetera.
  • Account login details, that is, usernames and passwords.
  • Legal documents and contracts.
  • Customer profile information.
  • Proprietary information.
  • Medical records.

Who needs an SSL certificate?

What are SSL Certificates

Any entity that utilizes its website to analyze, store, process, or portray sensitive data about its customers or its operations needs an SSL certificate. Otherwise, you’d be putting tons of confidential information at risk of being stolen or tampered with by hackers. I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t want that, would you?

Types of SSL certificates

Classification based on number of domain names and subdomains

Classification of SSL certificates according to the number of domain names or subdomains that a client owns include:

Single SSL certificate

A domain name or subdomain that is fully authenticated is secured by using a single SSL certificate.

Wildcard SSL certificate

A single domain name and a number of its subdomains that are fully authenticated are secured by using a wildcard SSL certificate.

Multi-Domain SSL certificate

Unlike other SSL certificates in this category, a multi-domain SSL certificate covers many domain names simultaneously.

Classification basing on validation level needed.

  • Domain validation

SSL certificate at this level is used to validate the authenticity of a domain name and its owner. Most importantly, it also takes care of the necessary encryption of data on the website. Domain validation costs much less than an organization and extended validation. Receipt of domain validation SSL certificate typically takes some minutes to a few hours.

Organization validation

On top of necessary data encryption and authentication of website and domain name owner, specific domain name owner details are verified. These details are usually their full names as well as mailing and billing address. Receipt of organization validation SSL certificate usually takes several hours to a few days.

Extended validation

Extended validation is the last type in this category. It’s the most expensive and more thorough type of validation. It also provides the highest security level for websites. The protocol involved before issuing an extended validation SSL certificate is quite strict and thorough, and it’s guided by the SSL certification governing consortium.

That being said, besides the provision of necessary encryption and authentication of websites and domain name ownership, there is the verification of the legal, operational, and physical existence of a business. Receipt of an extended validation SSL certificate usually takes several days to a few weeks.

Other types of SSL certificates

SSL server certificate

Before a server’s connection is successful, it must be authenticated first by this certificate. A server must provide this certificate before the connection goes through.

SSL client certificate

This certificate from the client-side is used to provide access and control permission so that the server can complete the connection setup. A client’s persona name and email address are the most common details captured on an SSL client certificate.

EMV certificate

That is specifically for payment cards. It’s used to verify payment details on a card during a transaction.

Email certificate

An email certificate is a type of SSL certificate used to secure emails by validating an email recipient’s authenticity.

Code signing certificate

This certificate’s role is to verify program signatures to confirm that they were not interfered with during delivery.

Intermediate certificate

An intermediate certificate signs all other certificates.

End-entity certificate

Unlike an intermediate certificate, and end-entity certificate lacks the capability of being used to sign other certificates.

So, where do you get SSL certificates?

One thing that is more important than owning an SSL certificate itself is where you get it from. There are individual certified bodies mandated to issue SSL certificates called Certificate Authorities (CAs). They are mandated with the responsibility of validating the authenticity of websites and businesses seeking these certificates.

Their role is straightforward: welcome certificate applications, analyze them, verify their legitimacy, issue certificates, and preserve data from these certificates. Additionally, you have the option of acquiring an SSL certificate from a domain name registrar.

How will your website visitors know that your site has an SSL certificate?

What are SSL Certificates

When you get to a website, there are four critical visual clues you should look out for to determine the legitimacy of that site. These clues include:

  • A padlock is located on the left-hand side of a URL.
  • HTTPS URL prefix instead of HTTP.
  • A trust seal.
  • A green address bar.

The bottom line

To conclude, the advancement and robustness being witnessed in technology and the Internet have increased cybercrime. Modern consumers have grown weary of the risks the information they enter on websites is exposed to. When you open a website, the first thing you do is verify its authenticity because your information may be stolen, hacked, or tampered with.

That being said, every website owner is striving to ensure their site has an SSL certificate to provide encryption to all data provided, enabling their visitors to verify their legitimacy. Lastly, various SSL certificates are classified according to several domain names and subdomains, level of validation, et cetera.