What is an SSL certificate and how make website secure?

SSL certificate

What is an SSL Certificate and How Does it Work?

You might have heard many people talking about the importance of SSL certificate when visiting websites. SSL certificate does create an encrypted connection and establish trust between the website and the visitors.

One of the most important thing that an online business needs to do is creating a trusted environment where customers are feeling secure not only in making purchases but also in navigating. SSL certificates can do so as they do build a foundation of trust by creating an encrypted and secure connection.

Google has been an advocate of SSL certificate since the very beginning and webmasters have been incentivised to implement it for 5 years now. Last month Google decided to penalise those websites that still haven’t gone secure by marking them as ‘Not Secure’ in the browser Chrome. On the other hand, websites that have made their connections secure were marked with a lock icon or a green bar and the word: secure.

However, how SSL certificate protect sensitive data? SSL certificates have a key pair: a public and a private key. These keys work together to make a connection encrypted. In this way, third parties, like hackers, are not able to see the data being transmitted from the website hosting server to clients’ computers. However, why then lots of webmasters are still reluctant to get a certificate?

‘If you have a dated and rich site it could be a bit painful to implement the SSL Certificate’, said Ethan Rowe working as IT expert at a UK Online Casino Aggregator site. ‘Considering the advantages tough and also that it is a one-off process it is well worth the investment as customers will feel more secure and also Google will give more visibility to a secure site. After all, the investment of getting an SSL Certificate is minimum’.

To get a certificate, you would need to make a Certificate Signing Request (CSR) on your server. This process is creating a public and a private key on your server. The CSR data file that is sent to the SSL Certificate issuer (also known as Certificate Authority or CA) has the public key. The Certificate Authority uses the CSR data file to create a data structure so that you can match your private key without compromising the key itself. The CA never sees the private key. You get the SSL certificate that needs to be installed on your server. It is also requested to install an intermediate certificate that ensures the credibility of your SSL Certificate by tying it to your CA’s root certificate.

Trusted CA, like DigiCert. Anyone can create a certificate, but browsers only trust certificates that come from an organisation on their list of trusted CAs. Browsers come with a pre-installed list of trusted CAs, known as the Trusted Root CA store. To be added to the Trusted Root CA store and thus become a Certificate Authority, a company must comply with and be audited against security and authentication standards established by the browsers.

An SSL Certificate issued by a CA to an organisation and its domain/website verifies that a trusted third party has authenticated that organisation’s identity. Since the browser trusts the CA, the browser now trusts that organisation’s identity too. The browser lets the user know that the website is secure, and the user can feel safe browsing the site and even entering their confidential information.

Without going too technical what is the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) and how it protects customers’ data? In a nutshell, Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) is a standard security technology used to establish an encrypted link between a server and a client: this is usually a web server (a website) and a browser or even a mail server.

SSL is the best technology to allows sensitive information like credit card numbers, login credentials and so on to be transmitted securely. The main difference is that usually the data sent between browsers and web servers is sent in plain text: this makes it vulnerable to interested third parties that could intercept the data sent and then use that information to commit a crime.

With SSL this is not possible as it is a security protocol. Protocols do describe how algorithms are used. In this scenario, the SSL protocol dictates the variables of the encryption for both the link and the data being transmitted. All browsers can interact with secured web servers using the SSL protocol. However, the browser and the server need what is called an SSL Certificate to establish a secure connection.

SSL is the best technology to use to ensure data is not stolen: it secures millions of peoples’ data on the internet every single day especially when online transactions are made or when confidential information is sent. Internet users need to be always aware that if SSL is not present and the site starts with HTTP instead of https, then their data are potentially at risk of being stolen by third parties.

How does the SSL Certificate create a secure connection?

When you are visiting a website that is secured by SSL the browser, and the web server does establish an SSL connection with a process that is called an ‘SSL Handshake’. The SSL Handshake is invisible to the user as it happens in a fraction of second. Three keys are used in the SSL connection: the public, private and session keys. Everything that is encrypted with the public key can be only be decrypted with the private key and the other way around. Since the encrypting and decrypting with private and public key takes a lot of processing power, those are only used during the SSL Handshake so that a symmetric session key is created. The session key is then used to encrypt all the data being transmitted.