Internet security is an urgent and important problem nowadays. There is a simple and reliable solution to it - adding SSL certificate to a website. Have you noticed a lock icon to the left of the domain address in your browser? This means that the site uses SSL for protection
What is SSL certificate and why do you need it
Secure Sockets Laye (an acronym for SSL) is such a clever and useful digital certificate that authenticates a website and allows it to use encryption when connecting to a server and transmitting information.
SSL improves the security of Internet connections and prevents attackers from spying or manipulating information.
The secure SSL protocol was created about 25 years ago and has undergone several versions. Each of them had security problems, but then an improved version of the protocol came along and was called TLS (Transport Layer Security). Some people still call it SSL because the old name is more familiar.
It's very easy to check if a site has the SSL certificate - you'll see a padlock and the abbreviation "HTTPS" in the URL.
Difference between HTTP and HTTPS
HTTP is a set of rules that allow a client and server to communicate while visiting websites. When you open a website, the browser sends an HTTP request to the server and receives an HTTP response in return. The connection between the server and the client takes the form of text data.
If we talk about HTTPS, it is an extension or improved version of HTTP with additional security. In this case, the browser and server establish a secure encrypted connection to transmit data in a secure form. You open a website. The browser verifies its authenticity by requesting an SSL certificate. The server responds by sending a public-key SSL certificate. The browser uses it to encrypt and send messages containing the session's private key. The web server uses the private key to decrypt and retrieve the session key. It decrypts the session key and sends a message to the browser. so the visitor's browser and the web server begin using the same session key for secure messaging.
What is the function of the SSL protocol or "handshake" protocol
Using some form of encryption, the server and browser create a common symmetric key that is used during one session and destroyed after the session is over. The next time you visit the site, the handshake between the browser and the server will be repeated. Thus, SSL certificates ensure secure data transfer between the user and the website.
Do I need an SSL certificate for my website and why?
Many users and administrators of web resources ask the question: "Why do I need an SSL certificate for my website?".
The reasons for using SSL certificates can be various, and they are especially important for serious online platforms. Corporations, banks, payment systems and government enterprises cannot do without SSL.
- SSL provides strong protection of personal data, helping to keep the information on the website secure.
- Builds user trust. They will feel confident if they have to share their personal information on your platform.
- Using an SSL certificate helps a website rise in the search results.
- For a number of services that work with users' personal data, the use of an SSL certificate is mandatory.
What does SSL error mean
Sometimes you get an SSL error instead of a secure connection on a website.Make sure that the SSL certificate is installed correctly and that your domain is redirected from HTTP to HTTPS. If you have a free SSL certificate installed, remember that it is only valid for the main domain and its "www" subdomain. It may not work for other subdomains.
Why SSL error occurs
The system clock or calendar settings on your computer may be out of sync. Set the correct date and enable time synchronization with a server on the Internet.
Check your antivirus program settings - it may have "HTTPS protocol scanning" enabled. If so, the program may not trust Let's Encrypt certificates. Disable this feature and try to access the site again. If these steps don't solve the problem, try temporarily disabling your antivirus program. If the error disappears, you may want to consider replacing your antivirus program.
The error can also be caused by a change in your browser settings or the presence of malicious scripts. Sometimes it can be a sign of a real threat - your browser is trying to protect itself from Internet fraudsters who redirect you to a clone site. In this case, scan your computer with an antivirus program and remove any viruses you find.
SSL certificate validation levels and their types
SSL certificates are differentiated by trust level - low, medium and high. Each level corresponds to a certain amount of identification information about the customer and has its own appearance in the browser bar.
- Simplified check
DV (Domain Validation) certificates only confirm the domain ownership. A confirmation e-mail with a link is sent to the e-mail address of the domain for which the certificate is ordered. After clicking the link, the certificate is automatically issued. DV-certificates are suitable for services that require user registration and protection of personal data and information sent by mail. They are available to both individuals and legal entities and are issued from a few minutes to 1-3 days. They activate the lock symbol and https protocol in the browser, but do not contain the organization information in the certificate itself.
Certificates with standard validation (OV - Organization Validation) confirm domain ownership and the existence of an organization. Validation includes a search for the organization in public databases, validity of the phone number and Whois information about the organization. Suitable for business websites, online stores and MS Exchange. Available to legal entities only and issued in 3 days. The lock symbol and https protocol are activated in the browser, and the certificate itself contains information about the organization, its address and certification authority.
Extended Validation (EV - Extended Validation) certificates confirm the existence of an organization, the right to own a domain, and the legality of its activities. When issuing them, a thorough verification of legal entities is carried out. Suitable for banks, financial organizations and government agencies. Available only to legal entities and are issued from 5 days. A green line with a lock appears in the browser, displaying the name of the organization, certificate issuing center, status and validity period.
SSL certificates of all mentioned types not only provide encryption of traffic between the site and the browser, but also have additional options that significantly extend their functionality. One of such options is WildCard certificates. They allow you to validate not only the main domain, but also all its next-level subdomains.
Another option is SAN (Subject Alternative Name) certificates. These allow you to validate multiple domains listed when you get an SSL certificate. For example, if you have multiple domains such as example.com, mycompany.com, and blogsite.com, with a SAN certificate you can validate them all.
How to choose SSL certificate
If you want to protect website users from intrusive browser warnings, a simple DV certificate is sufficient. If you use an Internet site for operations that require a higher level of security of company and client data, you should think about an EV certificate. And if you use more than one web address for your site or company, Wildcard and SAN certificates are available.
Free or paid - which is better?
Planning to secure your website, but don't want to spend money on an SSL certificate? Then free options may be the perfect solution! However, they have their own features and restrictions.
Advantages of free certificates:
- You can get and install such a certificate absolutely free of charge;
- There is no need to wait for a long time, the certificate can be received in a few minutes;
- Installation does not require special skills or complicated settings.
Disadvantages of free SSL certificates:
- Are of the Domain Validation (DV) type, which means they only validate the domain name;
- Require reissuance every few months. If you miss the renewal deadline, your site may be flagged as insecure;
- In case of problems, you will have to find a solution on your own;
- Don't provide as high a level of protection as commercial ones;
- Not all browsers fully support free certificates;
- This may cause problems opening your site for some users.
Despite all the disadvantages, free SSL certificates can be a good choice for small projects. But if you have a serious business project, you should pay attention to commercial options.
Advantages of paid certificates:
- Paid certificate keys consist of more characters, which makes them much harder for attackers to decrypt;
- You don't have to worry about reissuing them every few months. You only need to renew them once a year, which saves time;
- Supported by 99% of browsers, eliminating the possibility of scary notifications about page insecurity;
- Many certificate authorities provide refund guarantees if the SSL certificate does get compromised;
- Hosters typically provide live chat, phone or email support for SSL installation and operation at all stages of use.
Disadvantages of paid certificates:
The only disadvantage associated with paid certificates is their price, which depends on the type of certificate chosen, the number of domains, and can start from 5 euros per year.
How to get an SSL certificate
There are several varieties of paid SSL certificates, and the choice depends on your needs. The more expensive the certificate, the more compensation will be provided in case your connection is compromised.
There are two main ways to obtain an SSL certificate: by yourself or through a hoster. Another popular option is to use certificates from Let's Encrypt. This non-profit organization provides free SSL certificates valid for three months. Another option is to get certificates from Free SSL Space. This organization also provides 90-day DV certificates. Also worth mentioning is ZeroSSL, which offers certificates with different validation periods and levels. CloudFlare is another popular organization that provides SSL certificates through its Content Delivery Network (CDN).
About SSL briefly
SSL is a secure connection protocol that enables secure data transfer between a user's browser and a web server. When you visit a website, your browser checks its SSL certificate. If everything is in order, the site is considered secure and you see a "padlock" in the address bar. If you click on the padlock, the browser shows you information about the certificate.
SSL provides data protection, allows information to be transmitted securely and prevents possible attacks on the connection.