What is an SSL Certificate? Everything you should to know [2022]

SSL certificates enable websites to move from HTTP to HTTPS. Https is more secure. Almost all browsers give more priority to sites with HTTPS. 

An SSL certificate is a data file that is hosted on a website’s origin server. SSL certificates make SSL/TLS encryption possible. It contains information related to the website’s public key and the website’s identity. 

What is an SSL Certificate?
What is an SSL Certificate?

Devices attempting to communicate with the origin server will refer to this file to obtain the public key and verify the server’s identity. The private key is kept secret and secure.

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What is SSL?

SSL is commonly called TLS. SSL is a protocol for encrypting internet traffic and verifying the identity of the server. Any website with an HTTPS web address uses SSL/TLS. 

What information does an SSL certificate contain?

The SSL certificate includes:-

  • Details of the domain name for which the certificate was issued.
  • Information on which individuals, organizations or devices it was issued for.
  • Which certificate has been issued to it by the authority
  • On what date was the certificate issued?
  • Date of expiry of the certificate.
  • Digital signature of certificate authority related subdomain etc.

Public key (private key is kept secret)

The public and private ‘keys’ used for SSL are largely long strings of characters used to encrypt and decrypt data. The data encrypted with the public key can only be decrypted with the private key, and vice versa.

Why do websites need an SSL certificate?

The need for SSL for websites is immense. In order to protect user data, an SSL certificate is required to verify the ownership of the website. Also, an SSL certificate of the website is required to prevent attackers from creating a fake version of the site and to gain user confidence.

Encryption: SSL/TLS encryption is possible because of the public-private key pairing that facilitates SSL certificates. Clients (such as web browsers) receive the public key required to open a TLS connection from the server’s SSL certificate.

Authentication: The SSL certificate verifies that a client is talking to the correct server that actually owns the domain. It helps prevent domain spoofing and other types of attacks.

HTTPS: Most importantly for businesses, an SSL certificate is required for an HTTPS web address. HTTPS is a secure form of HTTP, and an HTTPS website is a website whose traffic is encrypted by SSL/TLS.

In addition to protecting user data in transit, HTTPS also makes sites more trustworthy from a user’s point of view. Many users won’t notice the difference between a http:// and a https:// web address, but most browsers have started tagging HTTPS sites as “not secure” in a more noticeable way, trying to give incentives to switch to HTTPS, and increase security.

How to Get an SSL Certificate

SSL certificates you can get directly from a Certificate Authority (CA). These certification authorities issue millions of SSL certificates each year. They play an important role in how the Internet works and how transparent, trusted interaction can take place online.

The cost of an SSL certificate can range from free to hundreds of dollars. This depends on the level of security required on your website. You can find certificate providers after you decide on the type of certificate you need. These certificate providers offer SSL according to the level you need.

Receiving your SSL involves the following steps:

  • Prepare by setting up your server and making sure that your WHOIS record has been updated. The record that you are submitting to the certificate authority is as if it matches whois data.
  • A Certificate Signature Request (CSR) will be created on your server. This is an action that your hosting company can help with.
  • It will be submitted to the certification authority to verify your domain and company details. The certificate they issue will be installed when the process is complete.
  • Once received, if you host the website itself, you will need to configure the certificate on your web host or on your own server.

How quickly you receive your certificate depends on what type of certificate you receive and from which certificate provider you collect it. Each level of verification takes a different time to complete. A common domain validation can be issued within a few minutes of ordering an SSL certificate, whereas extended validation can take up to a full week.

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