What is an SSL certificate ❓ Meaning and Types

Introduction

Website/application owners have tons of aspects to look into. However, ensuring end-to-end security ranks top as it is the most crucial factor that an end-user watches out for. Additionally, improved security bags higher ranking, and better SEO.

SSL certificate is one of the many approaches permitting website/application owners to meet all the security-related requirements. What does it mean and what value does it bring to the table?

Let’s figure all of it together.

What is SSL and Where is it used?

To attain high-end communication security, the protocol introduces authentication, privacy, and data integrity practices on HTTPS-based information transmission channels.

While understanding SSL, knowing the dissimilarity between SSL and TLS is crucial as these two share great similarities. For example — at SSL, you will connect using a port (e.g., 443) through a handshake, called ‘explicit’. On contrary, TLS uses a protocol to do the handshake, called ‘implicit’.

TLS, responsible for taking care of the security on the transport layer, was developed in 1999. It replaced SSL very soon, but due to its popularity, the term ‘SSL’ is many times used as a replacement for the term ‘SSL’ by people.

The SSL Certificate — A Quick Overview

It is crucial for products/services using SSL protocol as it has the ability to shield the ecosystem for its end-users.

Data included in it is enlisted below:

  • Identity markers;
  • Site or app’s public key;
  • Domain name associated with it;
  • Linked subdomain details;
  • CA’s digital signatures;
  • Details of issuing date and validity period.

As private key details are secret not to be shared with anyone, their details are not included in it.

To confirm that a website has it, pay attention to certain markers:

  • HTTPS in the URL in place of customary HTTP.
  • The closed padlock sign before URL. (Padlock is red or open when it is absent)

Why is SSL Certificate Essential and Who needs it?

By receiving and installing a relevant SSL TLS certificate, a website/application can prove its authenticity at the below-mentioned verticals. It brings reliability at both these, and many more fronts.

Improved encryption

One can enjoy levelled-up encryption and protecton with SSL certificate’s deployment as it facilitates the private-public key pairing. Web-browsers and other clients can easily get the public key to enjoying robust and well-encrypted connections.

Better authentication

Users visiting the SSL-certified websites are assured of using authorized resources and ecosystem, as the SSS-TLS speaks for your trustworthiness. It also plays a crucial role in preventing domain spoofing and other cyber vulnerabilities.

Helps you Get HTTPS web address More Easily

With SSL, moving to HTTPS from HTTP is easy. Shifting to HTTPS means offering highly encrypted and safe connectivity to the end-users.

Dependable user data security

Websites collecting sensitive user data can promise better security as SSL encryption keeps unauthorized access at bay. The list of such websites includes the ones needing bank information, medical records, payment method data, legal contracts, etc.

How does it works?

The certification moves forward following the ‘SSL handshake’ methodology. On its completion, your website gets HTTPS as its URL-prefix alongside a cerificate. Steps are:

  1. An SSL-secure link is enabled between the browser/server and server.
  2. The connecting browser/server requests the identity-validation data from web server.
  3. Once SSL certificate’s duplicate image is forwarded as an answer.
  4. This revet forms the basis of decision-making, on whether to trust the web server or not.
  5. If the browser/server decides finalizes that the server in questoin is trustworthy, a digital acknowledgment (confirmation) is sent back. This marks the beginning of an encrypted plus SSL-backed session.

Types of SSL certificates

Type #1: Organization Validation

Typically, the data to be crosschecked is the company’s name and address as its components.

Key Details

  • It offers a moderate degree of validation
  • It takes a few days to activate it after applying to receive it
  • The authentication process involves humans
  • Attracts substantial cost as it involves significant resources

Type #2: Domain Validation

Speaking of cost, obtaining a Domain Validation SSL certificate is least pocket-pinching and is often a preferred pick for blogging sites, single-page sites, small-business websites, and portfolio sites. With it, your all the online entities can own HTTPS websites quickly and at subsided cost.

Key Details

  • It will be granted within a few minutes
  • Least expenses as no human interface are required

Type #3: Extended Validation

Though it expands and is complex, it constructs a favorably trusted image of the company. CSR made for validation-extension will be comprehensively checked by the CA wherein the elements like whether or not organization exists are legally registered and are available on provided address.

As so many details will be verified, obtaining Extended Validation certificate is both costly and time-consuming. But, once obtained, it leverages the market worth and presence of the website in no time. So, its demand iis high in scenarios like global enterprise, online stores, financial or banking bodies, and websites related to news agencies.

Key Details

  • Strict-level validation
  • Takes many weeks to be awarded
  • High costing as needed too much human involvement

Type #4: Single Domain

However, all the pages, uploaded on the main/primary domain, will be backed by the same certificate.

Key Details

  • Limited utility
  • Useful for blogs and single page websites

Type #5: Multi-domain

Key Details

  • Required for the organization or people owning various domains with distinct extensions
  • Up to 100 domains can be verified

Type #6: Wildcard SSL Certificates

Websites, using various sub-domains, should obtain a Wildcard SSL certificate to keep the overheads under control while keeping the hassles of obtaining different certificates for separate sub-domains.

Key Details

  • Works for Unlimited domains
  • Any subdomain type is supported

How to get an SSL Certificate?

Interested people have to contact CA and follow a standard procedure to be SSL certified. The primary step is deciding the SSL certificate type for your requirement.

Once that’s sorted, the next-to-follow steps are as given under:

  1. Begin with setting the server and matching the WHOIS credentials with what is offered to the CA. It generally refers to details such as domain name, company name, address, address, and so on. These details should be matched.
  2. Up next is creating a CSR or Certificate Signing Request on a server with the help of a web hosting company that you’ve hired. Unless you’re highly skilled, you shouldn’t try your hand at this.
  3. The properly devised CSR should be proffered to CA for verification of the provided details.
  4. CA will cross-check the details and will grant the certificate upon successful process.
  5. Install SSL certificate and configure it on the website(s) you have got it for.

While the process appears straightforward on the surface, particular factors are highly influential.

  • Certificate’s price will vary with its type;
  • Based upon the type and provider, receiving SSL can be anything from a one-minute job (e.g., for domain validation only) to a week-long affair (e.g., for an extended one).

The Final Word

Originally published at https://www.wallarm.com.

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Ivan Novikov

CEO at Wallarm. Application security platform to prevent threats and discover vulnerabilities in a real-time.