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What is an SSL Certificate?

Maintaining online security and ensuring that people trust a website enough to submit their information and more importantly their financial information is a tough task.

Over the years, there have been significant advances in technology that have allowed businesses and individuals to freely communicate and interact online.

SSL certificates are something that ensures that online communication and transactions are carried out securely and efficiently.

What does SSL Certificate Mean?

SSL (Secure Socket Layer) certificate is a piece of code on your website's server that gives the security needed for any viable online communications. When a website browser tries to contact your secured site, the SSL certificate allows for an encrypted connection. It's similar to what our grandparents might have done when they used to seal letters in an envelope before sending them to their loved ones through the mail.

SSL certificates also work to inspire trust with online visitors because each SSL certificate has specific identification information. When a request is made for an SSL certificate, a third party verifies the organization's particulars and other information and then proceeds to issue a unique certificate with that particular information.

This is known as the authentication process. You can also choose to self-sign the certificate as well. The yearly cost for an SSL certificate is not a lot compared to the benefits it brings and the capabilities it gives to your website.

What is the History of SSL Certificate?

Netscape, in 1994, first introduced SSL. At the time, the internet was rapidly growing and additional protection and security were pivotal to the success of the internet. However, the first few trial versions of SSL were not up to the mark and it wasn't really until November of 1996 when SSL 3.0 was released that the relatively new security technology was able to be used efficiently and effectively.

The Internet Engineering Task Force (IEFT) in 1999 first introduced the Transport Layer Security (TLS) hoping to create a means to boost and upgrade SSLv3. Google has written that TLS was "developed as a standardized protocol to provide the same functionality". Although the TLS 1.0 was based on the SSLv3, the two "are not interchangeable".

The present version of TLS is TLS 1.3, which was released in August 2018 right after the IEFT spent close to ten years and 28 drafts honing and perfecting the version. The brand new version focuses on efficiency, security, and simplicity. These core benefits are available whenever you choose to install an SSL Certificate on a domain. You can easily check the encryption in place by looking for HTTPS and a green lock in the URL bar.

When data is encoded and is initiated to be sent from one location to another, a sort of a handshake takes place between the two parties. TLS 1.3 has made encryption and encoding so efficient that there is only a need for a single handshake to transport information over the internet. When these handshakes happen, the server and the client create and maintain data integrity by exchanging key data that only the two parties could possibly know or have access to. If a secure connection is not established due to any reason then the whole communication process is dropped.

How Does SSL Certificate Work?

Secure communication starts with an SSL handshake. In this handshake, the two communicators open a safe connection and give each other their public key. During the SSL handshake, the two parties create session keys, and the session keys encode and decode all communication and information exchange after the SSL handshake.

Different session keys are utilized to encrypt information transfer or communication in each new session. SSL guarantees that the server-side party or the site the client is engaging with, is really who they guarantee to be. SSL likewise guarantees that information has not been changed or altered, since a message authentication code (MAC) is incorporated with each transmission.

With SSL, both HTTP information that clients send off to a site that may be in the form of clicking, finishing up structures and so forth and the HTTP information that sites ship off clients is encoded. Encoded information must be unscrambled by the beneficiary utilizing a key.

What are Types of Certificates?

With encryption over the network, you can hide your communications from a malicious actor but you simply cannot stop them from intercepting communications during transit and posing as a relevant entity like a fake copy of your website to steal information from your online visitors and customers.

As people gradually distance themselves from brick and mortar stores and increase their online presence in the forms of online shopping and banking, end consumers and users have to trust that the site that they are visiting is the real website that they wanted to go to in the first place. Doing this online is more difficult as you can imagine given the complexity of things.

There is a genuine need for different types of SSL certificates and over the years there have been several new iterations and types of certificates that cater to a variety of business and consumer needs.

Here are the six major or most commonly used types of SSL certificates:  types of SSL certificates

Figure 1. Types of SSL Certificates

1. Extended Validation (EV) SSL Certificate

Extended Validation SSL certificates will in general be used for high-profile sites which gather information and include online payments or transactions. When introduced to the website, this SSL certificate shows the lock, HTTPS, name of the business, and the country on the browser's address bar.

Showing the site proprietor's data in the location bar helps give it authenticity and separates it from fake sites.

2. Domain Validation (DV) Certificate

Domain Validation SSL certificates give lower security in a sense and pretty low levels of encryption. They will in general be utilized for informational sites like blogs that don't include information collection or online transactions. This SSL certificate type is one of the most affordable and speediest to get.

The approval process just requires site owners to demonstrate domain possession by getting back to an email or call. The program address bar just shows HTTPS and a lock with no business name.

3. Single Domain SSL Certificate

Single SSL certificates are good for and secure a single domain (both WWW and non-WWW) and are accessible in Domain Validation (DV), Organization Validation (OV), and Extended Validation (EV) certificate types. Single SSL certificates can likewise protect and secure a sub-domain, IP address, hostname, or even a mail server.

4. Unified Communications (UCC) SSL Certificate

Unified Communications Certificates (UCC) are likewise viewed as Multi-Domain SSL declarations. UCCs were at first intended to protect Microsoft Exchange as well as other Live Communications servers. Today, any site owner can utilize these types of SSL certificates to permit numerous domain names to be secured on a single certificate.

UCC Certificates are organizationally approved and show a lock on the browser. UCCs can be utilized as EV SSL certificates to give website guests and visitors the most noteworthy assurance through the green address bar.

5. Wildcard SSL Certificates

Wildcard SSL certificates permit you to get a base domain and limitless sub-domains on a singular certificate. In the event that you have different sub-domains to secure, purchasing a Wildcard SSL certificate is more affordable than purchasing individual SSL certificates for every one of them.

Wildcard SSL certificates usually have an asterisk as an addition to the common name, where the asterisk shows any substantial sub-domains that have a similar base domain.

6. Organization Validated (OV SSL) Certificate

Organization Validated SSL certificate has a comparable assurance level to the EV SSL certificate since to acquire one the site owner needs to finish a substantial approval measure. This kind of certificate likewise shows the site proprietor's data in the location bar to differentiate from malicious and fake websites.

Organization Validated SSL certificates will in general be the second most expensive (after EV SSLs), and their basic role is to encrypt information during transactions.

What are the Features of an SSL Certificate?

SSL certificates have a number of features that make them a must-have for any website that wants to ensure that they are legitimate and to give trust to their users.

  • Security and Convenience: SSL makes a safe connection between a client and a server on which the site is stored or hosted. This connection needs no involvement from the client.
  • Server Credibility: SSL gives credibility to the server and guarantees that the client is conversing with the right machine.
  • Automatic Client Authentication: A user can validate to a SSL-enabled server utilizing the user's own public key pair, in the case that the server is set up to approve it.
  • Extensibility: SSL can utilize most encryption calculations and algorithms for hashing. The client and server can pick the best algorithm from those the two of them support automatically.

What are the Benefits of an SSL Certificate?

Regardless of whether you have a single website or are working for an enterprise, having an SSL certificate will have a number of advantages and benefits for you.

Here are some of the benefits of SSL certificates below:

  • SSL certificates help protect your data: The core benefit of an SSL certificate is to secure the client-server correspondences. On using SSL, all of the data is encoded. In the simplest of terms, it means that the information is locked and must be unlocked by the recipient (server or browser) as no other person can have the way to open it. While managing sensitive information like IDs, passwords, Visa numbers, and so on, SSL assists you with securing against hackers and malicious actors.
  • SSL certificates help confirm your identity: The other essential benefit of SSL certificates is to give authenticity to a site. Identity checks are quite possibly the main aspect of all things related to online security. There have been cases in which individuals have lost a huge number of dollars on counterfeit sites. This is the place where SSL certificates become an important thing to consider when browsing any website or interacting with it.
  • They help improve search engine rankings: Google had made changes way back in 2014 that altered its algorithm to give a ranking benefit to HTTPS-enabled websites. This has been crystal clear in various studies conducted by SEO professionals and experts across the globe.
  • SSL certificates help improve trust: SSL certificates are essential for an online customer's trust, in addition to encryption and identity verification. The easy-to-determine signs inform the visitors that the information they send is secured. And if the site they are visiting has an OV or EV SSL, they can see the organization's details. Once they know that the website they are on is a legitimate entity, they're far more likely to engage with you or even revisit your site.
  • They help meet PCI/DSS requirements: To receive online payments, websites must be Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliant. By having an SSL certificate installed on your website, one of the twelve main requirements set by the PCI is met.

Why is SSL Certificate Required?

Sites need SSL certificates to keep their user information secure, check ownership for the site, keep assailants from making a fake variant of the website, and ensure that the users and visitors of the website trust them.

In the event that a site is requesting its users to sign in, enter individual details that may be personal or financial, or view classified data like medical benefits, social security, or monetary data, then, at that point, it is vital to keep the information private. SSL certificates assist with keeping online communication and transfer of information hidden and guaranteeing users that the site is legitimate and protected.

More applicable to organizations is the way that a SSL certificate is needed if they want their website to have an HTTPS web address. HTTPS is the protected form of HTTP, which implies that HTTPS sites have their traffic encoded by SSL.

How to Create an SSL Certificate?

There are several ways to create an SSL certificate. We will now be discussing how you can get a self-signed SSL certificate in multiple ways.

1. Windows

Windows is the most popular and widely used OS today. So there is obviously a way that you can create an SSL certificate.

Here is how you can create an SSL certificate in Windows:

  1. Click on the Windows icon on the bottom navigation bar.
  2. Go to administrative tools.
  3. Click on the IIS Manager.
  4. In the connections, column click on the name of the server.
  5. Then you can proceed to double click on the Server Certificates icon.
  6. You can then click on the create a self-signed certificate.
  7. Give the certificate a name that you can identify it with later.
  8. The certificate that you have generated will be valid for a year.

2. Website

To create an SSL certificate for your website, one of the most convenient ways is to get it as an add-on from either your hosting provider or someone that has provided you with your domain name.

Some of these third parties might even throw in a free SSL for the first year or another sort of deal that will help take off some of the initial cost that you might have otherwise had to bear.

Here is how you can create an SSL certificate for your website if you have used Bluehost as a hosting service provider:

  1. Go to your web hosting panel.
  2. Click on the Security tab.
  3. You can then toggle the button to enable the free SSL certificate.

This is the easiest and most straightforward way that you can create an SSL certificate for your website. On the other hand, you can also opt to get an SSL certificate and upload it manually. This is not advised for most non-technical users, but it is still doable if you're willing to put in the time and effort.

3. Linux

Creating an SSL certificate in Linux might not sound like the easiest way to do it, but the way to make a self-signed SSL certificate in Linux is also pretty straightforward like the Windows version.

Here is how you can create an SSL certificate in Linux:

  1. Install the openssl certificate in Linux by using the command:
sudo yum install openssl
  1. Next, you will need to create an RSA keypair using the command:
openssl genrsa -des3 -passout pass:x -out keypair.key 2048
  1. Create a new folder to hold the files related to the private key.
  2. Create a CSR file by using this command: openssl req -new -key /etc/httpd/httpscertificate/IP_Address.key-out/etc/httpd/httpscertificate/IP_Address.csr
  3. You will need to enter some information like your location or organization.
  4. You will then have a .csr file that you can use to create an SSL certificate. Use this command to do so:
openssl x509 -req -days 365 -in /etc/httpd/httpscertificate/IP_Address.csr-signkey/etc/httpd/httpscertificate/IP_Address.key-out/etc/httpd/httpscertificate/IP_Address.crt
  1. The end result of this whole process will be a .crt file that will be in the same place with the rest of your files.

While it may look like a lot to do as compared to the Windows method, this is still fairly easy to do if you are a Linux user and pick up technology relatively quickly.

4. Apache

Creating a self-signed certificate in Apache is also possible. Here's how you can do it:

  1. In the command prompt window, you will need to create a new working directory for your SSL certificate.
  2. You will then need to copy openssl.cnf to the working directory you have just made.
  3. Once you have done that, you will then have to generate a private key as well as a certificate signing request. The commands to do this are:
openssl req -config "c:\ssl\openssl.cnf" -new -nodes-newkey rsa:2048 -keyout my_key_name.key -out my_csr_name.csr

(the my_key-name is the key you are making and my_csr_name is the CSR that you are making).

  1. Once that is done, you will be prompted to enter some information that are essentially the X.509 certificate attributes.
  2. You will then need to send your certificate to a signing authority if you want it to be used by apache.

One point to note is that if you want your certificate to be valid and real it will have to be verified by a signing authority and you can't self-sign it.

How to Download SSL Certificate?

In the case that you might want to download your SSL certificate to manually add it to your website, it will be better for you to download the certificate first.

If you are using a third-party vendor like GoDaddy to get the SSL certificate for your site as well, you will be instructed or given the option to download the certificate after first requesting the SSL and verifying the SSL.

You will have to select a server type and then you will be directed to download the zip file.

It is best to only purchase or download SSL certificates from reputable names in the industry. You wouldn't want to get your computer system infected by viruses if you try to download a SSL from a shady site.

Is SSL Certificate Paid?

Website owners can choose to purchase SSL certificates from Certificate Authorities (CAs) or other authorized and well-known third-party resellers. SSL certificates may come in a number of variants, but Domain Validated (DV) SSL, Organization Validated (OV) SSL, and Extended Validation (EV) SSL are the most commonly purchased types of SSL certificates.

Domain Validated SSL has the lowest level because this kind of SSL certificate is only checked against the domain registry. It gives site owners the ability to have the S in the HTTPS connection.

Organization Validated SSL certificates are in accordance with the X.509 RFC standards that display all vital information to validate a business or an organization. Extended Validation SSL is only given by the CA after a strict validation process.

How Can I Get an SSL Certificate for Free?

These days, you can definitely get an SSL certificate for free.

One of the easiest ways to get an SSL certificate for your website is to avail of the offer that most hosting providers will give when signing up for web hosting.SSL certificates are generally given with the price of the hosting, so you can call them free.

You can also get a trial version of SSL certificates from SSL.com. The basic SSL version is great if you're new to using SSL certificates and want to explore using them for a trial period before making a purchase.