SSL Certificates for Dummies: What They Are and Why They’re Important!
As technology advances, we see more visitors searching for information online. The use of next-generation technology by businesses helps their audience to find the information they need quickly. The increased use of websites has also unleashed the power of the dark web. With website users becoming increasingly more conscious of their online privacy, SSL certificates have gone from an option for any website to an urgent need.
As hackers use innovative techniques to capture user data, businesses must introduce adequate safeguards to ensure user trust in their websites. Ignoring this can lead to significant loss of trust and, consequently, a loss in sales. One of the best ways to safeguard user trust is by installing SSL certificates. This article will discuss more about them and how they can be helpful for organizations.
What is an SSL certificate?
SSL forms the infrastructure for a secure internet and helps visitors know that your website is secure for browsing by encrypting the interactions that take place between the web server and the visitor’s browser. As a result, no unauthorized entity can gain access to the information as it’s in transit.
When an SSL certificate is installed, the visitor can verify the website’s authenticity by checking the address bar itself. The presence of the padlock ensures that the website is secure. If additional details are required, the visitor can click on the padlock for more information about the underlying certificate. The type of certificate needed depends on the types of digital assets you wish to secure.
How do SSL certificates work?
The SSL certificates work using the Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) technology. This cryptography technique uses two keys, viz. a private key and a public key, that helps to encrypt the communication taking place between the two systems. The keys are used to encode and decode the information being exchanged and to secure it effectively when transmitted.
When the visitor tries to connect with the website, it requests the server’s public key and provides its public key. The user sends a message to the server that is encrypted using the public key. When the server receives the message, it decrypts it using the private key. The messages are sent back to the browser after being encrypted using the public key of the browser.
Benefits of SSL certificates
Security through data encryption.
Most websites store data related to customer demographics and even financial information. The SSL certificates ensure security to client-server interaction and encrypt the flow of information, thereby preventing any third party from accessing it. Using a private and public key pair ensures that the data is decipherable only by the designated recipient.
Confirms your identity.
Before a business can install the SSL certificate, a Certificate Authority must validate the company’s antecedents. The validation process is based on the type of certificate selected by the business. Once you install the certificate, the website will be acknowledged by web browsers as secure. This makes it much more difficult for hackers looking to create a fake website with the same name, a technique known as “phishing.”
Improved customer trust.
Visitors to any website always check for the padlock on the address bar, and more so if they wish to make an online transaction. Most users abandon a website if they do not find the padlock as they are deemed to be unsafe. Moreover, websites can also get a Trust Seal if they have already installed one of the many SSL certificates available.
You satisfy PCI/DSS guidelines.
If your website accepts online payments, you must adhere to the PCI/ DSS guidelines. The payment processing industry has set up guidelines to secure online transactions against any fraud. There is a list of around twelve primary requirements according to these guidelines. Having an SSL certificate is also one among them.
Prevents warning messages on browsers
Web browsers are on a mission to provide a safe browsing environment for users. Google has been flagging the insecure non-HTTPS websites as “Not Secure.” There are chances that such sites may get entirely blocked by web browsers. By flagging to users that a website is “not secure” this dissuades them from entering your website at all, leading to loss of customer trust and to more visitors abandoning the website.
Improves search rankings
Since 2014, Google has been providing benefits in the search ranking to HTTPS websites. It is vital for search ranking that websites implement SSL certificates. It could also be attributed to the more significant number of visitors to secure websites.
Types of SSL certificates: Validation Levels
Domain Validated (DV) SSL certificates.
The certificate authority will check whether the business has the right to use the domain name. The certificate depicts that the domain is registered, and there is a site administrator who is running the site. They are the quickest and among the most effective ways for encryption. The HTTPS is enabled, and the padlock is shown on the address bar. These certificates are ideal for blog sites, personal websites, and test servers. They are usually issued within minutes.
Organization Validated (OV) SSL certificates
This certificate requires you to prove that the organization owns the domain it wishes to secure. The entity must exist in a particular country and city. The business must be registered legally as well. The certificate authority will take steps to validate the company’s identity, and it may take a few days to receive this certificate. Additional information about the company is provided when the visitor requests it.
Extended Validation (EV) SSL Certificates
These certificates provide the highest level of trust that requires organizations to provide much more details that show their ownership of the company. There is a specific process that all certificate authorities must follow. The physical, operational, and legal existence is measured and is also checked against the official records. It is also verified whether the entity has the exclusive rights to use the domain.
The latest high-security browsers support the highest levels of authenticity provided by these certificates. It is the most secure certificate, and it usually takes days to be issued due to the level of validation needed before issuing it. It is recommended for all business websites but necessary for e-commerce sites.
Types of SSL certificates: Number of secured domains
Single domain certificates
These certificates will secure only one domain. For example, if you wish to install it for www.example.com, you cannot use it for sub-domains such as blog.example.com. It is ideal if you have only one website that must be secured. They are available relatively cheap as well.
Wildcard SSL certificates
Wildcard SSL certificates are known to have a wildcard character (*) in the domain name. The certificate allows securing multiple first-level sub-domains along with the primary domain. For example, if you purchase the certificate for example1.com, it will secure blog.example1.com, new.example1.com, careers.example1.com, etc. However, it will not secure new.abc.example1.com.
They use 256-bit encryption methodology and are available in organization validation and domain validation options. It saves resources by reducing the number of certificates that you need to install. The administration of website security is also centralized.
Multi-Domain SSL Certificates
The Multi-Domain certificates help to secure multiple domains through a single certificate. They provide flexibility by securing several domains and sub-domains. The web administrator can add, delete or change the SANs during the validity of the certificate. However, all the domains must be registered under the same owner. The domains listed in the account are required to prove their ownership.
One of the significant advantages is that it supports multiple fully qualified domain names (FQDN) through the same certificate. The SAN field allows the web administrator to specify the additional hostnames provided by a single certificate. It is supported by 99.9% of all web browsers and is supported by domain validation, organization validation, and extended validation certificate types.
How can I evaluate my SSL needs?
SSL certificates are an efficient safeguard for users. You must move your website to an HTTPS platform as web browsers and search engines prefer HTTPS websites. Now the question arises—How can you evaluate your needs?
As a webmaster, you must have an assessment of the number of web assets that are there. Have a ready list of the number of domains and subdomains that you must secure. Also, you must assess the type of websites that must be secured and whether the websites are storing customer information.
There are also various factors to consider, like the time required to issue, validation type, and the associated price. It would help if you made a rational decision as this will also involve customer trust. Always choose from among the renowned certificate authorities whose products are compatible with most browsers.
As users are more aware of their online privacy than ever, businesses must ensure adequate steps are taken to protect their users as they browse your website. One of the steps you can take is by moving to the HTTPS protocol that will help to encrypt the communication the webserver has with the visitor’s browser. There are several options available with renowned certificate authorities. You can go through the different options and choose one that is ideal for all your web assets.
If you need help with choosing the right SSL for your B2B website, Lform Design can help! Our expert website design and development team has extensive experience in securing your site through the proper installation and configuration of SSL certificates. Contact us today for help!