Are you a small business planning to launch your e-commerce website? Then you must learn how important it is to secure your websites from being hacked before you accept bill payments from your customers.
Online shoppers are indeed increasing in number, but 85 percent of them avoid unsecured websites, as per the statistics. Therefore, you need to make your website highly secure to gain your potential customers’ trust.
Oh, not to worry; you do not need to undergo a cumbersome procedure to safeguard the data of your customers. All you need is to obtain an SSL Certificate.
Let’s not confuse you anymore and discuss what an SSL Certificate is and how to get one.
What is an SSL Certificate?
A Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) Certificate is a digital certificate issued by a Certificate Authority (CA) to authenticate a websites’ identity and enable encrypted communication between a web browser and web server.
Secure Sockets Layer
Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) is a standard protocol used to encrypt internet traffic to safeguard the internet connection and the sensitive data shared between two systems. It prevents cybercriminals from performing phishing, cyber extortion, data breach, identity theft, or other criminal activities.
What is a Certificate Authority?
According to cryptography, a Certificate Authority (CA) is an entity that issues digital certificates to websites after validating the domain. It issues SSL certificates that are trusted by web browsers like Chrome, Edge, Opera, Safari, Firefox, and others.
List of Certificate Authorities
What Information Does an SSL Certificate Contain?
Following are the details included within SSL certificates:
- Name of the domain
- Name of the person, organisation, or device the certificate
- Name of the Certificate Authority
- Digital signature of the issuing certificate authority
- Name of all the associated subdomains
- Issue date of the certificate
- The expiry date of the certificate
- The public key
Note: The private key is kept a secret.
Types of SSL Certificate
There are various types of SSL Certificates depending on the validation levels. Following are the six main SSL Certificate types.
- Extended Validation Certificates (EV SSL)
EV SSL is the most secured and expensive SSL Certificate used mainly by the website that collects users’ data and provides online payment facilities. It triggers the high-security web browsers to display HTTPS, the name of the organisation, the name of the country, and the name of the Certificate Authority on the browser address bar. To get an EV SSL certificate, the website owner has to go through a verification process to confirm their identity.
- Organisation Validated Certificates (OV SSL)
The second most secured and expensive OV SSL Certificate also requires the website owners to undergo a standardised validation process and are used by websites that collect sensitive user details and involve online payment. Along with the name of the organisation, the name of the country, and the name of the Certificate Authority, websites with OV SSL display the website owner’s information in the address bar.
- Domain Validated Certificates (DV SSL)
Used mainly by blogs and information websites, DV SSL provides lower encryption and assurance facilities to the user. Also, the validation process for DV SSL is simple as the owner only needs to confirm its identity by sending an email or through a phone call.
- Wildcard SSL certificates
With Wildcard SSL, the website owners can secure their main domain and the subdomains by grabbing a single certificate. It is helpful for websites with multiple subdomains, as getting individual SSL Certificates for each subdomain would be heavy on the pocket.
- Multi-Domain SSL Certificate (MDC)
Organisations obtain MDC for securing multiple domains and/or subdomains in a single certificate. It includes domains and subdomains with different Top-Level Domains (TLDs ) except for local or internal domains.
- Unified Communications Certificate (UCC)
UCC is similar to MDC in securing multiple domains and/or subdomains in a single certificate. In addition, websites can use the certificate for Microsoft Exchange and Live Communications servers.
How does SSL work?
SSL applies an encryption algorithm to encrypt the sensitive data of the users, such as name, address, or debit/credit card numbers, when they interact with the website. It prevents the data from being hacked by cybercriminals.
Here is a step-by-step guide on how SSL works.
- The user types the website address in the web browser.
- The browser tries to connect with the SSL secured website and requests the website to disclose its identity.
- The website forwards the browser a copy of the SSL Certificate in response.
- The browser validates the SSL Certificates.
- If it trusts the SSL Certificate, it sends a message to the website to start the session.
- The website, in response, sends a digitally signed acknowledgement to start an SSL encrypted session.
- Finally, the encrypted data is shared between the browser and the website.
The entire process that happens between a browser and website is known as “SSL Handshake” and takes place within a few milliseconds.
Now the question arises, as a user, how would you know whether a website has an SSL certificate or not?
It’s quite simple, every website with an SSL Certificate would have the acronym HTTPS, i.e., HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure at the front of the URL. And those without an SSL Certificate would have only HTTP at the beginning of the URL.
Why Do Websites Need an SSL Certificate?
By now, you have a brief idea that a website needs an SSL Certificate to secure the users’ data and restrict the hijackers from creating a fake version of your website. Let’s discuss it in detail.
SSL Certificate allows the public-private key pairing for encryption, and the data encrypted by the public key can be decrypted only by the private key and vice versa.
It is needed when a website accepts payment from the users or collects personal details, such as the phone number, insurance policy number or PAN number. In case it is not encrypted, there is a high chance of the data getting stolen and misused by the hijackers.
Sometimes cybercriminals create a website identical to that of a company. Every time a user visits the original website, it gets redirected to the duplicate one.
And if by chance a user enters any personal data or makes a payment, the entire data gets leaked. An SSL Certificate restricts the user from visiting any such website and prevents domain spoofing.
A website needs an SSL Certificate to have an HTTPS web address. Some browsers tag the website without an HTTPS as “not secure”. Hence, indicating to the users that the website must not be reliable.
Therefore, to gain the user’s trust, an organisation or a company needs an SSL Certificate for their website.
How to Obtain an SSL Certificate?
To obtain an SSL Certificate, the domain owners or the website owners need to reach out to the Certificate Authority (CA). After validating all the information provided, the CA will issue the SSL Certificate to the website owner, digitally signed using a private key.
The cost of the SSL Certificate may vary depending upon the CA or the type of certificate you want to obtain. Usually, most of the CAs offer SSL Certificates free of cost.
After receiving the certificate, it has to be installed on the website’s origin server. Once installed, all the interaction with the website will be encrypted and able to load over HTTPS.
You can create your own SSL Certificate by creating a public-private key pairing. It is called a Self-signed SSL Certificate as the certificate would be digitally signed by using the websites’ private key. However, browsers do not consider such SSL Certificates secure and might display “not secure” even after having HTTPS.