SSL certificates. One of the main priorities when you are dealing with personal or sensitive data on your website, be it through login forms or data transactions, is to make sure that the data and its transfer are secure. Sensitive information should be encrypted and only understood by the intended recipient. The end user should know that the existence and validity of your website has been authenticated.
All of this can be achieved with the use of SSL (Secure Socket Layers) which ensures that the data passed between the user and server is encrypted and decrypted with keys. This leaves no room for error and no possibility for a third party with malicious intent to hijack the connection.
The SSL protocol will verify the credentials of yourself and the end server through SSL certificates, and both identities will be verified. It enables a secure and safe connection through a HTTPS website over TCP port 443. The SSL certificates used in this protocol are actually small data files that will successfully bind your own details to a cryptographic key. Once an SSL certificate is connected to an end web server, it acts as a digital passport and initialises a secure session with browsers.
There are 3 main different types of SSL certificates you can use:
– Dedicated SSL Certificates are both the most secure and the most expensive, providing a secure connection for your root domain only through a designated IP address.
– Shared SSL certificates can be used if multiple domain names point to the same IP address, so the host can then manage one single shared SSL on each server.
– Wildcard SSL Certificates means multiple subdomains of your website are used, which can be useful if you have many such split functions on your website under different subdomains.
Once the SSL protocol has established a secure connection through an installed SSL certificate, all web traffic between the end user’s browser and the web server will be secure.
Browsers will also notify the end user whether a website has been SSL secured or not, normally by a padlock indicator in the address bar, or changing the colour of the address bar.
Here is an example of a browser address bar with an SSL sign (green and lock), and details of the SSL certificate below it:
All digital certificates are verified through a chain of trust, and each SSL certificate needs to be issued from a trusted Certification Authority’s (CA) Root Certificate. If this root certificate is not presented on the end user’s machine, the browser will display untrusted error messages to the user, as in the below example:
If you found this guide helpful, why not check out another guide we have written about staying safe and secure online in general, which is available here.