Similar to our house, bank accounts, and other belongings, the website owned by us requires security. You cannot let any random person make changes to the site. Moreover, people often interact with the site. They might create an account with a mail id, and directly buy if you operate an online store. So, people share their credit card details, phone number, address, etc. One should not allow cybercriminals to steal the data the users or other systems share on their web pages. Also, the client system needs to interact with the correct server. That is, authenticated information should be available to the users. These factors affect the credibility of the business.
Companies, organizations, and individual website owners add SSL certificates to their websites. SSL stands for secure sockets layer. It ensures that the customer or user information is safe and private.
How does SSL work?
The basic principle is to encrypt data that is in transit between the users and the website. The encryption makes it difficult to scramble the data. As soon as the browser tries to connect to a website, there is a request for site identification. The web server sends the SSL certificate. Once the browser trusts the SSL certification, a secured session starts between the user machine and the website server.
The SSL data file contains the website’s public key, and the devices requesting access to the site obtain this key to verify the website’s identity.
The websites having SSL certificates have an HTTPS (HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure) URL. A padlock symbol appears before the URL. By clicking the padlock sign, one can view various info like the domain name, certificate authority, issue date, expiry date, etc.
How to obtain an SSL certificate?
The certification authorities are trusted third-party organizations that generate and issue the certificates. The cost of certificates varies as per the security level. The first step is to give the correct domain name, address, company details, etc., to the certifying authority.
The web hosting companies help in generating a certificate signing request on the server. The certification authority validates the details and issues the certificate. Then, you have to install and activate it on the website’s origin server.
The SSL certificates are valid for a maximum period of 27 months. After that time, one has to renew it. Otherwise, the site becomes unreachable, or the users get a warning message regarding the potential threats by continuing to the site. Large enterprises having numerous websites can opt for certificate lifecycle management services to manage the certificates. Business owners can also get multi-domain SSL certificates.
Types of SSL certificates:
Based on the verification process, there are three types of SSL certificates. They are EV (Extended Validation), OV (Organization Validated), and DV (Domain Validated) SSL certificates. An organization holding many domains or subdomains opt for multi-domain (MD) or SAN (Subject Alternative Names) certificates.MD certificates are available in all validation types. When you have multiple sub-domains and want full encryption for all of them, then the wildcard SSL certificates are the best choice. Unified Communication Certificates (UCC) are specific for Microsoft Office and Exchange server environments.
A website with extended validation certificates offers the highest level of security. It requires verification of the legal, physical, and operational existence of the company and the website. It involves special audits by the issuing authorities, and they need to repeat it every year. Apart from the padlock symbol and HTTPS URL, the URL bar appears green in select browsers. It is recommendable for sites that require legal or financial information of users. It can take up to a week to get an EV SSL certificate.
Organization validated certificates are valid only for registered businesses. Therefore, individuals cannot apply for the OV certificate. The certificate shows organization details and implies a more credible website. One gets the secure site seal and the HTTPS URL. It is a must for new companies as the users get to know the people associated with the site. The CA can issue the certificate in about three days.
It is the simplest encryption level available for websites. One can get the certification within minutes as there is no need to submit organization details.
The domain validated certificate doesn’t require vetting of the company. It is suitable for internal sites.
As a user, always look for the padlock symbol and HTTPS in the URL. Fill in personal and payment details only to sites with EV or OV certificates. One can see the organization name either in the address bar or by clicking the padlock symbol for such SSL certificates.
It is possible to get a self-signed SSL certificate. That is, no third party is involved in the vetting process. At times, maleficent people can get their sites certified and get your personal information. So, one has to be careful and examine the domain names and company details.