In the modern era, web users rely on the Internet more than ever, conducting virtual transactions ranging from online shopping to banking. However, with the increased Internet usage, cyber threats have emerged as a significant concern for individuals and businesses. To counter the rising threat of cybercrime, the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) and its successor, Transport Layer Security (TLS), were developed to provide a secure layer on top of the open Internet. Keyfactor.com suggests learning more about PKI to know more about these. To give you more insight, this article will discuss why SSL/TLS certificates are essential, how they work, and what every web user needs to know about them.
1. The Importance Of SSL/TLS Certificates
Without SSL/TLS certificates, there is no way to provide a secure connection between a web server and a web browser. This opens up the possibility of man-in-the-middle attacks where hackers can intercept data during the transmission. The SSL/TLS certificates act as a digital handshake, verifying the party’s identity at either end of a connection and ensuring that the data exchanged is encrypted and secure. Web users can protect themselves from cyber threats and fraudulent activity by ensuring that SSL/TLS certificates are installed and configured correctly on a website.
2. What Are SSL/TLS Certificates?
SSL/TLS certificates are digital certificates that use public critical infrastructure (PKI) to authenticate a website owner’s identity. SSL/TLS certificates use encryption algorithms to secure the connection between a website server and a web browser. The SSL/TLS certificate is issued by a trusted third-party certificate authority (CA), which ensures the digital certificate is authentic and correctly installed.
3. How SSL/TLS Certificates Work
When a user visits a website with SSL/TLS encryption, the website sends its SSL/TLS certificate to the user’s browser. The browser checks whether the SSL/TLS certificate has been issued by a trusted certificate authority (CA). If the certificate is verified, the browser uses the public key in the certificate to encrypt all data sent to the server and vice versa. This means that any data intercepted by a third party cannot be decrypted as they do not have the private key. This encryption creates an SSL/TLS tunnel, a secure communication channel between the web server and the user browser.
4. Types Of SSL/TLS Certificates
There are three types of SSL/TLS certificates: Domain Validated (DV), Organization Validated (OV), and Extended Validation (EV). DV certificates only verify the domain, whereas OV and EV certificates validate the domain and the organization. EV certificates, in particular, provide the highest level of validation and are used by high-profile organizations such as banks and financial institutions. It is important to note that the level of proof does not affect the level of encryption provided by the SSL/TLS certificate.
5. Encryption Strength
All SSL/TLS certificates come with different encryption strengths. The encryption strength is determined by the length of the key used in the encryption algorithm. The longer the key, the more secure the encryption. A commonly used vital length is 2048 bits. However, some certificates use longer key distances, such as 4096 bits, to provide extra security.
6. TLS Version
In addition to encryption strength, knowing what version of TLS the website uses is essential. TLS 1.2 and 1.3 are the latest and most secure versions. However, older versions such as TLS 1.0 and 1.1 are still widely used by websites. It is crucial to ensure that the website you are visiting uses a secure TLS version and not an outdated one that may have vulnerabilities.
7. Signs Of A Secure Connection
Web browsers display various indicators to show a secure connection. These indicators include a padlock icon, HTTPS in the address bar, and a green address bar for EV certificates. These indicators ensure that the website is secure and the connection is encrypted.
8. Security Best Practices
To ensure that your data remains secure, there are a few security best practices to keep in mind:
- Always check for the padlock icon and HTTPS before entering sensitive information on a website
- Pay attention to the certificate issuer and encryption strength of the SSL/TLS certificate
- Check that the website is using the latest version of TLS
- Be wary of unsecured websites that do not have SSL/TLS certificates
In conclusion, SSL/TLS certificates provide a secure connection and protect web users from cyber threats. Every web user must know the importance of PKI, SSL/TLS certificates, how they work, and why they are essential to Internet security. By understanding SSL/TLS certificates, web users can ensure they access websites that prioritize safety and protect them from cybercrime.