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SSL Certificate Explained: Everything You Need To Know About SSL

Last updated on April 8th, 2021 at 03:57 pm

ssl certificate explained

So, you have heard about SSL certificates, but you don’t quite understand how they work? Then, you have come to the right place. In this article, we have explained what an SSL certificate is. We explained how an SSL certificate works, why you need one, and how to get it.

You must understand what SSL is and why it is important to your website. We have taken the time to explain in detail what SSL certificates are. We believe that you would have learned everything you need to know about SSL by the end of this article.

What is an SSL certificate?

What is SSL?

SSL is an abbreviation for Secure Sockets Layer. SSL is an encryption-based internet security protocol. The main purpose of SSL is to ensure authentication and data privacy in internet connections. The protocol used to ensure secure internet connections between servers and internet users is called SSL.

In short, SSL is the technology used to make sure an internet connection is secure, that the information being exchanged during the connection is safe, and cannot be accessed or stolen by cybercriminals.

What is an SSL certificate?

An SSL certificate is a small data file with code that contains data to bind a cryptographic key to your website. It contains encryption data and is stored on your server. The SSL certificate ensures secure connections by creating encryption between your browser and the webserver. When you install an SSL certificate on your web server, it activates the HTTPS and ensures the connections to that server are secure. Asides from web servers, SSL certificates also work on mail servers to secure the communications between the mail server and the mail client.

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SSL certificates contain your domain name, company name, address, city, state, country, expiration date, and details of the issuing certificate authority.

To summarize, SSL certificates ensure that there’s no loss or theft of important data in your website’s connection to your site. It facilitates secure credit card transactions, logins, and data transfer.

ssl certificate explained

Types of SSL Certificates

Many types of SSL certificates are available. They are categorized based on the number of domain names and subdomains to be covered and based on the level of validation needed.

Based on the number of domains

SSL certificates can be categorized based on how many domain names or subdomains they can accommodate. The types of SSL based on several domains are:

  • Single – secures one fully-qualified domain name or subdomain name
  • Wildcard – secures one domain name and an unlimited number of its subdomains
  • Multi-Domain – secures many domain names

Based on the level of validation needed

Certificate Authorities(CAs) verify the identity of people looking to buy SSL certificates before they issue the certificate. This verification can be simple online tests or manual examination of documents and evidence or even confirmation through third-party databases depending on the certificate type.

Certificates with higher validation levels command more trust and credibility than those with lower validation levels. The types of SSL certificates based on level of validation are:

  • Domain Validation(DV)

The Domain Validation(DV) certificate is the easiest, fastest, and least expensive SSL certification to purchase and install. After a successful automated challenge-response test, they issue a DV to te website. Purchasing a DV certificate takes a few hours(at most) to be issued. Like Chrome and Firefox, browsers use a lock icon to indicate to browsers that an SSL certificate protects the website.

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DV certificates are not strong enough to be trusted for high-risk transactions. However, they are good enough for new low-traffic websites.

  • Organization Validation(OV)

The process to get an organization validation certificate is more rigorous than that of a DV certificate. The Certificate Authority has to confirm control of a domain and manually vet the prospective organization’s details. The CA usually requests verifiable documents or a contact with the organization’s staff. As a result, the OV certificate commands a higher level of trust and credibility.

For organizations that don’t handle a lot of private information or need very secure connections, OV certificates are a good fit. OV certificates are more expensive than DV certificates, and they usually take up to days to be issued.

  • Extended Validation (EV)

Extended Validation certificates provide the highest degree of security and trust. This is because CAs conduct thorough examinations to prove beyond doubt their owners’ credibility before issuing EV certificates. Asides from confirmation of ownership of the domain name registration and entity authentication, they also verify the legal, physical and operational existence of the person or organization.

As a result, users trust EVs easily. In fact, most browsers indicate that such a website has extra validation. EVs are popular among big companies that require high security, like banks and other financial institutions. EVs are also popular among large e-commerce sites that need customers to trust them.

As expected, EVs are more expensive than OVs and DVs and take up to several weeks to be issued.

How Does an SSL Certificate Work

SSL certificates are responsible for making sure connections on a website are secure and encrypted. To do this, they encode the information exchanged between the website visitors’ browser and the website’s servers.

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Immediately a client visits a website secured with an SSL certificate; the browser confirms if the SSL authentication of the website is valid. Once that is done, the browser uses the website’s public key to encrypt the connection. This encryption is then sent to the server in its encryption(to deter cybercriminals). The server, in turn, uses the public and private keys to decode the information sent. All these happen in the space of seconds, so you don’t even realize it is happening.

How To Get an SSL certificate

We have so far explained what an SSL certificate is, what they do, how they do it, and even the different types of SSL certificates. It is now time for you to learn how to get an SSL certificate for your website.

As we have noted earlier, Certificate Authorities (CAs) issue SSL certificates to websites and organizations. However, individuals and businesses do not have to interact directly with CAs, which can be very technical. Rather, most hosting and cloud companies offer SSL packages. They either offer them as a part of a hosting package or as a stand-alone product that is easy for customers to buy.

At Truehost Nigeria, we pride ourselves as Nigeria’s best and most affordable web hosting and cloud hosting company. We understand the importance of the sites that we host is secure, and that is why we offer SSL packages to help secure your website from hackers.

Check out our SSL Certificate packages here now.

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