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What is an SSL Certificate? Everything You Need to Know

In this guide, you will find everything you need to know about SSL Certificates.

An SSL certificate is an electronic document used to prove the ownership of a digital key. This digital key is used to encrypt information sent from your computer to the web server, making it unreadable by anyone who might intercept it. 

A valid SSL Certificate also contains your company name and address, as well as the name of the issuing authority and expiration date. The purpose of this type of certificate is twofold: 

Firstly, it confirms that you are who you say you are.

Secondly, because encrypted data cannot be read or changed without breaking the encryption code (i.e., decryption), using an SSL Certificate adds another layer of security for online transactions in which personal or sensitive information is being exchanged between parties over an insecure connection such as email or the World Wide Web.

How does an SSL certificate work?

What Is An SSL Certificate

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To understand how an SSL certificate works, you first need to know a little bit about public key cryptography (a method of encrypting data using two different keys, one of which is public and the other private). 

When you request an SSL certificate from a Certificate Authority (CA), you will generate a key pair:

  • A public key that anyone can use to encrypt data sent to you. This encrypted data can only be decrypted using your private key.
  • The corresponding private key that only you know used to decrypt data encrypted with your public key. 

Think of it this way: if someone wants to send you a secure message, they will use your public key to encrypt it.

When the message arrives at your computer, only YOU have the corresponding private key needed to decode it so that you can read the message—nobody else! 

This is precisely HOW an SSL certificate works.

When you try to view a website secured with an SSL certificate (look for the HTTPS:// in front of the address in the top-left corner of your browser window and/or the padlock icon or green address bar ), your browser will check for a valid ssl certificate on that site’s server before establishing a secure connection between you and your website visitor’s browsers. 

If everything checks out OKAY, then information exchanged between these two browsers during their session will be encrypted so that there is no way for anyone in the middle to read or modify it.

If, on the other hand, your browser does not find a valid SSL certificate installed at that website (or if something is wrong with the certificate), then you will see an error message and/or warning telling you that “This Connection Is Not Secure”— meaning do NOT enter any sensitive information into this form because doing so could result in someone intercepting it!

What are the different types of SSL certificates? 

Technically, there are three types of SSL certificates: Domain Validated (DV), Organization Validated (OV), and Extended Validation (EV). 

a). Domain Validated (DV)

Domain Validated SSL certificates are the most basic type of certificate and are typically issued within minutes. 

To obtain a DV certificate, the domain owner must prove to the Certificate Authority (CA) that they have control over the domain. 

This can be done by sending an email to an address associated with the domain or placing a file on the website. 

Once the CA verifies that the applicant has control over the domain, they will issue the certificate. 

Who should get a DV SSL? 

Domain Validated SSL certificates are ideal for personal websites, blogs, and small businesses that do not handle sensitive information. 

b). Organization Validated (OV) 

Organization Validated SSL certificates provide more assurance than DV because the organization must verify their identity to the CA before the certificate is issued.

Unlike DV certificates, the OV process typically takes one to five days. 

To obtain an OV certificate, applicants must submit documentation that proves their existence as a legal entity such as business licenses or Articles of Incorporation. 

In addition, they will need to provide proof of ownership or control over the domain such as a WHOIS record or DNS entry. 

Once this documentation has been reviewed and approved by the CA, they will issue the certificate.  

Who should get an OV SSL certificate? 

Any website that wants to establish trust with its visitors and does not handle highly sensitive information can benefit from an OVSSL Certificate

This goes especially to eCommerce sites where customers enter personal data like credit card numbers during checkout processes.

c). Extended Validation (EV) 

Extended Validation SSL certificates are the most stringent type of certificate and offer the highest level of assurance to website visitors. 

The issuing Certificate Authority (CA) verifies not only the identity of the business but also undergoes a thorough vetting process to ensure that the organization operates in accordance with industry best practices.

When a browser connects to a site secured with an EV SSL Certificate, the address bar turns green and displays the name of the organization. This visual cue gives consumers confidence that they are doing business with someone they can trust. 

In addition, EV SSL Certificates provide strong encryption, which protects information as it travels across the internet.

As such, EV SSL Certificates are an important tool for building consumer trust and confidence in your online business.

Who should get an EV SSL? 

Any website where security is paramount and customers enter sensitive information like credit card numbers during transactions can benefit from an EV SSL Certificate. Financial institutions, healthcare providers, and government agencies are examples of websites that would benefit from EVSSL Certificates.

Other types of SSL

Single Domain SSL Certificates

A single domain SSL certificate can be used to secure communication for a single website or multiple subdomains of a website. In order to be issued a single domain SSL certificate, the organization must prove its ownership of the domain.

Wildcard SSL Certificate

A Wildcard SSL Certificate is a digital certificate that secures websites with the added benefit of securing an unlimited number of sub-domains. 

And it can be issued for either a single domain name or multiple domain names. 

The main benefit of a Wildcard SSL Certificate over single domain SSL is that it’s much easier to manage than multiple digital certificates for each sub-domain. 

Another benefit is that it is more cost-effective because you only need to purchase one certificate instead of multiple certificates. 

Wildcard SSL Certificates are ideal for websites that have many sub-domains, such as: 

  • .dev.example.

Multi-Domain SSL Certificate (MDC)

An MDC is a multi-domain SSL certificate, which gives you the ability to secure multiple websites with a single certificate. This can be a big time and money saver if you have multiple sites that need to be secured. 

In fact, an MDC can be used to secure up to 100 different domains or subdomains. It’s a great option if you have a large number of sites that need to be secured, or if you want the convenience of having a single certificate for all your sites. 

Unified Communications Certificate (UCC)

This is a slightly different SSL than what we’ve looked at so far. Unified Communications Certificate (UCC) is a security certificate that helps secure the sensitive environments of Microsoft Exchange and office communications. 

By using this certificate, organizations can help to ensure that their confidential data remains safe and confidential. In addition, the UCC also helps to improve communication between employees by providing a more secure way to exchange information.

Things to remember when buying an SSL certificate

When buying an SSL certificate, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Make sure the site you are buying the certificate from is reputable. There are many scams out there, and it’s important to make sure you’re not getting ripped off.
  • Check to see if the company offers any kind of warranty or guarantee. This will protect you in case anything goes wrong with your purchase.
  • Be sure to read all of the terms and conditions before purchasing anything. This way, you’ll know exactly what you’re agreeing to when making your purchase.

Final thoughts

An SSL certificate is a digital certificate that provides authentication for a website and enables an encrypted connection. They are essential for businesses and individuals who want to build trust and credibility online.

There are many different types of SSL certificates, each with their own features and benefits. The most important thing is to choose the right certificate for your needs.

If you are still not sure which SSL certificate is right for you, our team of experts can help. Contact us today and we’ll be happy to answer any of your questions.