An overview of security certificates
We can do all sorts of things online, from renewing a passport to opening a bank account, applying for a loan or doing the weekly shop. Online shopping, or e-commerce, has grown from a niche activity to one that is pretty routine for many of us. The UK, in fact, is the e-commerce leader in Europe, generating a massive £38.83 billion in online sales last year.
Whatever we’re doing online we want to be secure and SSL certificates are one of the best ways to ensure security whenever we’re exchanging data with a website.
What is SSL?
SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer and is a protocol that provides safer communication via an encryption process. The information being exchanged between your computer and the website’s server is encrypted, meaning that any hacker attempting to intercept and read the information will be unable to get any meaningful data.
The encryption uses two keys – one at each end of the data exchange. One key encrypts the information and the other key decrypts it again at the other end. In conventional (symmetric) encryption, both keys are the same and can each be used to encode and decode the other’s transmissions. In asymmetric cryptography there are two distinct keys; information encrypted with one can only be decrypted by the other and vice versa.
What are SSL certificates?
Using SSL is a great way to keep transactions and other exchanges of data secure. You also need a way to know that the website you are using is protected by SSL technology, and this is where certification comes in. A secure server identifies itself to web browsers by means of a certificate. If a certificate is present, the beginning of the website address will be identified ‘https’ rather than ‘http’. There will also be a padlock icon in the address bar and, for some certificates, the entire address bar will turn green in high security browser settings.
An SSL certificate may be self signed but the certificate authority that is best is generally a trusted third party that is able to issue an Extended Validation (EV) SSL certificate. The verification process is more thorough for an (EV) SSL, meaning there is more public trust in sites with this sort of certification. Whether you’re a consumer or a vendor, SSL and its accompanying certification can help make sure the transaction is secure and trouble-free.