With thousands of pounds sent across the Internet every second, websites need rigorous security measures to keep users safe. Fortunately, a high-security standard is easily accessible through the certificate system that exists across the entire Internet.
If you’ve ever wondered how online payments are so secure, you’ll find a quick breakdown of the Internet’s Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) infrastructure right here.
Why Security Certificates are Important
SSL security certificates guarantee that the user’s connection to the site is encrypted, so nobody can steal the data exchanged. This is standard for popular sites that handle money.
Websites that give and take any sums of money need those transactions to be secure, like those in retail, banking and iGaming. Large websites in these sectors keep certificates so that your Amazon information isn’t exposed, your online banking account doesn’t get compromised, and your appropriately themed Action Bank game stays secure. Just because you open vaults in-game, it doesn’t mean you’d leave yours wide open. Any money put in and taken out is safe from outside influence, so users don’t have to worry about their own vault getting cracked.
Even smaller websites that don’t handle money can benefit from more sophisticated web security. We have more information on obtaining an SSL certificate below.
How SSL/TLS Certificates Work
SSL encrypts the connection between web servers and your web browser. It stops digital bystanders and bad actors from seeing what you do on the site, and more specifically what data you share. It’s a 25-year-old system that has adapted with time, and now technically uses the name Transport Layer Security (TLS) but it’s still generally referred to as SSL.
When a browser starts the connection process, it demands the identity of the SSL-enabled website server. That’s where the server shows its SSL certificate and it is reviewed by your browser.
You may have had plugins or anti-virus software restrict certain websites in the past for security reasons. This is because your browser could not validate the site’s security certificate. Assuming the site passes this check, the server that hosts the website starts an encrypted session. You may hear this referred to as the SSL handshake.
The SSL TLS Handshake Process pic.twitter.com/0lQ3nJcX3c
— LetsDefend (@LetsDefendIO) February 3, 2023
Obtaining an SSL Certificate
If you are a webmaster who wants to secure your website, it’s a good idea to get SSL protection even if you don’t handle money or data. Issuers of SSL protections dish out millions every year because they are a fundamental security measure. Netizens are smart to distrust sites that don’t have it.
For most online ventures, getting SSL protected is free or if not very cheap. Pricier variants are available for larger online operations. Check which level of security you may need.
— Cloudflare (@Cloudflare) October 12, 2021
You should also make sure your WHOIS matches relevant documentation to your identity and company name if applicable. Then your hosting provider should be able to take care of the certificate request if you ask them. Once that’s done, it’s as easy as installing the certificate to become verified for your SSL private key.
That should be everything a curious mind wants to know about SSL/TLS certificates for now. As a user, you should always look for that S at the end of HTTP before engaging with a website because it indicates that the site is SSL/TLS protected. As a webmaster, you should do everything in your power to get this fundamental and cost-efficient protection.