What is an SSL certificate?

I often have to explain why many websites, particularly ecommerce websites need added security.

I thought therefore that the following extract from our certificate provider Thawte, would be interesting.:

“An SSL certificate is a bit of code on your web server that provides security for online communications. When a web browser contacts your secured web site, the SSL certificate enables an encrypted connection. It’s kind of like sealing a letter in an envelope before sending it through the mail.

SSL certificates also inspire trust because each SSL certificate contains identification information. When you request an SSL certificate, a third party (such as Thawte) verifies your organisation’s information and issues a unique certificate to you with that information. This is known as the authentication process.

For public web sites where customers enter credit cards or other high value information, you need to quickly show users proof of your web site’s identity and encryption. An SSL Web Server Certificate with EV turns the address bar green in high-security browsers and displays your verified organisation name, making it easy for users to trust your site”

In some technical detail (for those of us who are interested!) here is some more stuff…

“What Happens between the Web Browser and Server?
A browser attempts to connect to a web site secured with SSL. The browser requests that the web server identify itself.
The server sends the browser a copy of its SSL certificate.
The browser checks whether it trusts the SSL certificate. If so, it sends a message to the server.
The server sends back a digitally signed acknowledgement to start an SSL encrypted session.
Encrypted data is shared between the browser and the server.

SSL Fundamentals
There are 3 essential elements at work in the process described above: a protocol for communications (SSL), credentials for establishing identity (the SSL certificate), and a third party that vouches for the credentials (the certificate authority).

Computers use protocols to allow different systems to work together. Web servers and web browsers rely on the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) protocol to enable encrypted communications. The browser’s request that the server identify itself is a function of the SSL protocol.
Credentials for establishing identity are common to our everyday lives: a driver’s license, a passport, a company badge. An SSL certificate is a type of digital certificate that serves as a credential in the online world. Each SSL certificate uniquely identifies a specific domain (such as thawte.com) and a web server.
Our trust of a credential depends on our confidence in the organisation that issued it. Certificate authorities have a variety of methods to verify information provided by individuals or organisations. Established certificate authorities, such as Thawte, are well known and trusted by browser vendors. Browsers extend that trust to digital certificates that are verified by the certificate authority.”

I think that covers it lol.

If you have any questions or would like to install some extra security on your website, let us know.