What is an SSL Certificate?

Posted on 7/27/2011 | Printable Version | Comments (0)

You may have heard about SSL Certificates, also called secure certificates, or SSL Certs for short. But what are they? SSL is an acronym for Secure Sockets Layer. The SSL Certificate is a little piece of code that is used to make a website more secure. When you visit a website, the URL (web address) usually starts with http://. Once configured with an SSL Certificate, the website will support requests using https://. When this happens, the connection between the user and the server is encrypted. So when you enter information on that website, such as your credit card number, before it gets sent over the internet to the server, all the bits are jumbled up using an encryption algorithm. This prevents anyone who may be listening in along the way from discerning what is in that transmission. The SSL Certificate provides the means of securing that transmission. It is important to have an SSL Certificate on your website if you are collecting any sensitive information. Credit card information certainly merits an SSL Cert, but other things do as well. Prices for these certificates range widely based on the strength of the protection (how strong of encryption is used) and they will often carry warranties with them as well. SSL Certificates are sold through a series of trusted authorities who validate the certificate's authenticity. When you visit a site with a valid SSL Certificate, you will see a lock icon in your web browser. Click on this lock to see the details of the certificate. If you visit a website that has an invalid certificate, you will usually see a warning message appear. Be wary of websites with invalid certificates. These messages can appear for a number of reasons. The certificate may be expired (they renew each year, just like a domain name) or they may not be properly configured. Speak with your web host for more information on SSL Certificates and how to purchase, install and configure them.


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