What is an SSL Certificate?

9 September 2016

What is SSL? SSL is an acronym for Secure Sockets Layer, an encryption technology that was created by Netscape. SSL creates an encrypted connection between your web server and your visitors' web browser allowing for private information to be transmitted without the problems of eavesdropping, data tampering, or message forgery.

To enable SSL on a website, you will need to get an SSL Certificate that identifies you and install it on the server. The use of an SSL certificate on a website is usually indicated by a padlock icon in web browsersbut it can also be indicated by a green address bar. Once you have done the SSL install, you can access a site securely by changing the URL from http:// to https://. When an SSL certificate is installed on a website, you can be sure that the information you enter (contact or credit card information), is secured and only seen by the organization that owns the website.

Millions of online businesses use SSL certificates to secure their websites and allow their customers to place trust in them. In order to use the SSL protocol, a web server requires the use of an SSL certificate. SSL certificates are provided by Certificate Authorities (CAs).

Why do I need SSL?

If you are transmitting sensitive information on a web site, such as credit card numbers or personal information, you need to secure it with SSL encryption. It is possible for every piece of data to be seen by others unless it is secured by an SSL certificate. Your customers won't trust your web site without an SSL certificate. According to Gartner Research, nearly 70 percent of online shoppers have terminated an online order because they did not "trust" the transaction. In those cases, 64 percent indicated that the presence of a trust mark would have likely prevented the termination. An SSL certificate and a site seal could stop people from abandoning your website and that means more money for you. Read our why SSL is necessary page to learn more.

What is a certificate authority (CA)?

A certificate authority is an entity which issues digital certificates to organizations or people after validating them. Certification authorities have to keep detailed records of what has been issued and the information used to issue it, and are audited regularly to make sure that they are following defined procedures. Every certification authority provides a Certification Practice Statement (CPS) that defines the procedures that will be used to verify applications. There are many commercial CAs that charge for their services (VeriSign). Institutions and governments may have their own CAs, and there are also free Certificate Authorities. Every certificate authority has different products, prices, SSL certificate features, and levels of customer satisfaction.

How do SSL Certificates compare between certificate authorities?

Verisign certificates are better because they cost so much more, right? Not necessarily. You can get a certificate for $100 that does that exact same thing as a certificate sold for $800 from another certificate authority. It is the exact same SSL encryption. Why the difference? Trust is the biggest difference. Since VeriSign has been around for longer than other certificate authorities, more people trust them so they can charge more. You are essentially paying for the brand.

What is browser compatibility?

The certificate that you purchase to secure your web site must be digitally signed by another certificate that is already in the trusted store of your user's web browsers. By doing this, the web browser will automatically trust your certificate because it is issued by someone that it already trusts. If it isn't signed by a trusted root certificate, or if links in the certificate chain are missing, then the web browser will give a warning message that the web site may not be trusted. So browser compatibility means that the certificate you buy is signed by a root certificate that is already trusted by most web browsers that your customers may be using. Unless otherwise noted, the certificates from all major certificate providers listed on SSL Shopper are compatible with 99% of all browsers. For more details about a specific certificate provider, see SSL Certificate Compatibility.

How many domain names can I secure?

Most SSL server certificates will only secure a single domain name or sub-domain. For example, a certificate could secure www.yourdomain.com or mail.yourdomain.com but not both. The certificate will still work on a different domain name but the web browser will give an error anytime it sees that the address in the address bar doesn't match the domain name (called a common name) in the certificate. If you need to secure multiple sub-domains on a single domain name, you can buy a wildcard certificate. For a wildcard certificate, a common name of *.yourdomain.com would secure www.yourdomain.com, mail.yourdomain.com, secure.yourdomain.com, etc... There are also special certificates such as Unified Communications (UC) certificates for Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 that can secure several different domain names in one certificate.

What is a trust seal?

A trust seal is a logo that you can display on your web site that verifies that you have been validated by a particular certificate provider and are using their SSL certificate to secure your site. It can be displayed on secure and non-secure pages and is most appropriate on pages where customers are about to enter their personal information such as a shopping cart page but they can be displayed on every page to help build trust. Every certificate authority's trust seal is different and some look more professional so you should consider what the seal looks like in order to maximize customer trust. In the e-commerce business, customer confidence is essential to increasing conversion rates. According to Symantec's 2016 Internet Security Threat Report, web-based attacks increased by 36 percent from 2014 to 2015, with a fourfold rise in malware attacking Linux - the most widely used operating system on web servers. With new malware, phishing scams, and other cyber-threats appearing on the web every day, customers need to know whether or not your website can be trusted. That is whereSecure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificates come in.

SSL: A Visible Sign of Security

SSL is the standard security protocol used by millions of websites to encrypt their online transactions with their customers. By creating a secure link between an Internet browser and a web server, SSL ensures that all information transmitted between the browser and the server remains private. The SSL certificate is an essential tool for anyone conducting transactions online. Not only does adding an SSL certificate to your e-commerce site help protect your business, but it also reassures your customers that your online store is a safe, secure e-commerce site. An SSL certificate is a clear, visual confirmation that your business has taken the necessary steps to ensure your online store is a trustworthy place to conduct business.

Trust You Can See

An SSL certificate ensures the secure communication of sensitive information as it's transferred from the web browser to the web server. The SSL certificate encrypts data at the time it is submitted to a website, thereby preventing hackers from reading the information as it travels across the information superhighway. Once the information has reached the intended recipient, the data is decrypted into its original, usable form. Since Netscape first began offering the SSL protocol as a security technology in 1996, online customers have been instructed to look for a padlock symbol in the address bar of their browsers before providing sensitive personal information over the Internet. Today, customers associate the padlock symbol with integrity and trust. The padlock represents an encrypted link between you and the customer and shows that your online store is a legitimate business or an accountable legal entity. Your website visitors can check the authenticity of an SSL certificate and verify the ownership of your website. The ability to validate the ownership of your web domain and other details concerning the legitimacy of your organization gives customers added peace of mind when doing business with you online. Your web visitors will gain the reassurance of knowing your website is secure -- and this translates into an increase in conversions for you, the website owner.

Not just for credit cards

A common misconception is that an SSL Certificate is only needed if you accept credit card payments through your website. However an SSL certificate is just as important if you accept payments via third party payment gateways such as PayPal or 2CheckOut since an SSL certificate protects not only payment information, but all data communication between a customer and your website, ensuring personal information such as name & addresses, support requests and more are kept private.

Boost Customer Confidence With an SSL Certificate from Digitalwurl.com

You spend a lot of time, energy, and money driving traffic to your online store. To keep visitors on your site and give them the confidence to buy from you, you need to show them that their transaction is safe with your site. Secure your website's good reputation - and your customers' confidence - with an SSL certificate.