What Are SSL Certificates?

SSL certificates

If you’re a user of Mozilla products, like Firefox or Thunderbird, you may have heard that the company will stop trusting unknown SSL certificates, citing these types of certificates are cryptographically unsafe. The type of certificates they are denying at the 1024-bit keys however, websites that have 2048-bit keys are fine and are up to date.

But what is a SSL certificate? And should you care about them?

So what is a SSL certificate? In general terms, a SSL certificate is a digital key that allows for secure connections on a web server. It stands for secure sockets layer, a type of encryption that was created by Netscape (yes, the folks behind the browser).These certificates combine the domain, server, or hostname, an organized identity (like a company name) and its location.

SSL certificates are mostly used for secure credit card transactions, data transfers, logins, and recently, the social media sites. It fundamentally creates an encrypted connection between a company’s web server and your web browser. A good example would be Amazon – when you sign in to Amazon or order something from Amazon, there is a SSL certificate on their web servers that talks with your web browser. This allows for you to securely enter in or use your credit card without the issue of eavesdropping, message forgeries, or data tampering.

Why are SSL certificates important?

As mentioned earlier, SSL certificates are important for any website that plans to transmit sensitive Information like credit card details or personal information. Hospitals for example would need SSL certificates on their websites, especially those that contain personal information like medical records or social security numbers. Gartner Research found that 70% of online shoppers have stopped an online transaction because they didn’t trust the transaction or the website while 64% stated that a trust mark, like from Verisign, would keep them on the site and making a transaction there.

How do I recognize a SSL site?

No doubt you’ve seen sites that you’re on a secure website. On a web browser, you’ll notice the small lock in the address bar, the https designation for the website, and maybe a seal that signifies that the website is secure. It’s important that when dealing with any company or company website that uses personal data or information, that the website is secure and that the company cares about your security when using that website.

This Blog was brought to you by Hypersocket Software and its CEO, Lee David Painter. With over 20 years of industry experience as a pioneer in IT Security, Lee developed the world’s first OpenSource browser-based SSL VPN (SSL-Explorer). Today, Lee runs Hypersocket Software, a leader in Password Self-Service solutions.
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