How does an SSL Certificate Work?

Security Socket Layer (SSL) is an online certificate that is used to verify and certify that the exchange of data with one website to another is secure, validated, and safe. The need for this tool is now a necessity to many online businesses to assure customer satisfaction when it comes to security in placing data on online forms and other items that require information entry.

The most common application of this certificate can be observed with sites that require customers to give their contact information or payment details, such as online stores. What it does is that it protects two-way connections from entry of third party links in viewing data as it is entered or exchanged between the buyer and the seller, by encrypting data, therefore making it hard for a hacker to steal information from the customer. SSL certificates work in two ways:

  1. SSL certificates do its job by authorizing data exchange being done during transactions. This is done by having the data being turned into a different form of code, which can only be deciphered to the party that has the matching certificate, at the time of the exchange. This indicates that when a hacker breaches the information in between, he may only get codes, which are usually hard to crack, due to distortion done by the certificate.
  2. SSL certificates are guaranteed to fulfill its purpose if it includes your information and the data of the website owner. Having this kind of certificate creates credibility that the individual who makes the transaction can be trusted since he discloses his data during the trade. Wise online shoppers check SSL certificates to confirm that the online shop where the transaction would take place, is not fraud or shady.

It is recommended for all online stores to have SSL certificates available, even if it would just be a virtual terminal or a site that accepts credit card information.

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How does an SSL Certificate Work?

Just like a real certificate that has your personal information in it, the SSL certificate carries your info online, but it is protected with codes that could only be deciphered by another party that permits the exchange of information in many sites. Online shops that do not have SSL certificates are very risky in the sense that you are giving your information away while everyone else sees it, as it is not encrypted. There is no safer way than sharing your data than sending it to the right person who has the right key to open and access it. Apparently, there are two keys being used to operate an SSL certificate:

  1. Public Keys are used to change ordinary characters like numbers and letters into codes or combination of characters that cannot be easily understood by people, including hackers. Once the change has been done, it verifies the browser, the other end server, and only then will the transmission of the data will take place, masking simple values hidden or to be revealed only by encrypting the codes with the right certificate.
  2. Private Keys are those that convert the encrypted data back to the way it is supposed to be presented. This is only available on the other end of the server, and nowhere else, as the generation of key combinations will only take place when the two Keys have handshakes and the SSL certificates verified information on both ends.

There are various levels of security depending on the encryption type being used. Low security has only 40-bits of data encryption, while standard goes to 128-bits and 256-bits for the best kind of encryption to be used.

This information is sent from server to server on designated or dedicated ports. The most common place where unsecured data is being sent can be seen on port 80. With data being sent in packets over cyberspace, the destination of this information can be determined with the port number registered at the top level of the data. Usually, secure packet data is transferred using SSL certificates with port 443. Nevertheless, this number can be changed based on personal preference for additional safety and security fully customizing your online store. Configuration can be done using your operating system settings, with specific codes verifying the completion and conversion of port number changes.

Limitations of an SSL Certificate

An SSL certificate has limitations of what it can do and what it can provide. Although the certificate suggests a high level of security for many customers out there, ways and means are still available to get past it and access information. Some factors that limit security include the access of the company that issued the certificate, encryption level included, web browser capability where the certificate is used, and the software being used by the eCommerce site owner. Despite of these limitations however, SSL certificates are great to use due to the credible security it provides for customers and businesses everywhere.

These certificates can be obtained and bought from an SSL issuing company, or it can be shared with the online store that would use its certificate instead, included in the hosting service. Gauge the severity of the need for an SSL certificate, the information to be protected, and the encryption level to be used. Prices vary from $10 to $1,500 per year, depending on the included features and protection.


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