If you have already encountered creating your own website, then you have probably heard out of your ears about the SSL and HTTPS certificate – therefore, in our new post we will tell you how to protect the data of site visitors, how HTTPS differs from HTTP, what is an SSL certificate and what types of certificates exist?

What is an SSL certificate 

SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) is an encryption protocol that allows data to be encrypted for more secure communication.

In simple terms, a certificate provides an encrypted connection between the person and the site being used. When you watch a YouTube video, upload a photo to Facebook, or open Instagram, your browser and server exchange information. 

Thanks to SSL, the information that is transmitted is protected from outsiders: the administrator of the Wi-Fi network, the provider, the operator and others – which means it cannot be intercepted and used for fraudulent purposes. In addition, the SSL certificate acts as a confirmation of the reliability of the resource and makes it possible to verify who is its real owner.

We can say that an SSL certificate is a kind of unique digital signature on a website. 

Such a certificate is needed for all sites that in some form work with personal data of users: from logins and passwords to more detailed ones. First of all, these are, of course, banks, payment systems, online stores and commercial platforms.

Checking for SSL is easy. To do this, just look at the address bar in your browser. To the left of the site address, you will see a closed padlock icon.

And if an OV or EV certificate is installed on the site, then when you click on the lock, information about the organization that owns the site will appear. 

In these types of certificates, in the “Details” tab, you will find the following information:

  • the domain name for which the SSL certificate is issued;
  • the legal entity that owns the certificate;
  • the physical location of its owner (city, country);
  • validity period of the certificate;
  • details of the supplier of the SSL certificate.

Difference between HTTP and HTTPS

As you already know, every query entered into the search bar goes from you (the user) to the server and back. Such communication is possible thanks to the operation of the HTTP protocol. The acronym stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol. And it is good for everyone – only it does not encrypt data, which means that attackers can intercept your personal information (bank card data, passwords, details). 

For data security, the HTTPS protocol was introduced – HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure (that is, the secure HTTP protocol). In this case, data transmission is carried out using the same protocol, but with cryptographic encryption, as indicated by the additional letter “S”. HTTPS works thanks to SSL / TLS certificate.  

SSL / TLS certificate is a digital signature of a website. With its help, its authenticity is confirmed. 

Before establishing a secure connection, the browser requests this SSL certificate and contacts the certification authority to confirm the legality of the document. If it is valid, then the browser and server trust each other and agree on a one-time cipher. This happens every session, that is, every time you exchange requests and responses. This is where it came from and what the “S” stands for in HTTPS.

Which Sites Need SSL?

An SSL certificate must be connected to websites that deal with finances and personal data of users. These are online stores, banks, payment systems, social networks, postal services and any other projects. 

It is better to put an SSL certificate from the very beginning in order to have higher positions in search engines. If, nevertheless, the certificate was not initially used, then you can move quickly, but search engines can only see it after a couple of months. Moreover, today you can install SSL for free . 

What types of SSL certificates are there and who issues them?

There are special certification authorities, or as they call it, certification authorities (CA). You may have come across the names of such CAs: Symantec, Comodo, GlobalSign, Thawte, GeoTrust, DigiCert. They confirm the authenticity of encryption keys using electronic signature certificates.

In addition, there are projects, CloudFlare or LetsEncrypt, where you can get a certificate for free and on your own. Such a certificate is issued for 3 months and then requires renewal. However, during their installation and further work, there are a number of nuances that should be taken into account. For example, when choosing a Cloudflare certificate, keep in mind that it is issued immediately to 50 sites. Thus, the certificate will protect not only your domain, but also several others, which carries security risks. Also Cloudflare does not have a seal of trust. If we talk about the shortcomings of LetsEncrypt, then this includes support for far from all browsers, the lack of a guarantee of the safety of site data and the seal of trust.

The seal of trust is a special sign that allows visitors to see that the connection to your site and all transmitted data are reliably protected.

So, there are several types of SSL certificates based on the signature source and the type of data verification.

  • Self-signed . The certificate is signed by the server itself. It can be generated by any user independently. In fact, it is useless, because only the computer on which such a certificate was generated will trust it. Most browsers, when visiting a site with such a certificate, will warn you that the connection is not secure.
  • Signed by a trusted certification authority (valid) . We are talking about those very authoritative CAs above. The certificate is displayed correctly in all browsers. The certificate data has been checked and confirmed by the certification center.

So, the difference between self-signed certificates and those issued by the CA lies precisely in the fact that the browser is familiar with the CA and trusts it, and when using such a certificate, your visitor will never see a huge notification about the insecurity of the resource. You can buy such an SSL certificate either directly from the CA or through hosting providers. 

Certificates signed by a trusted authority, in turn, are also subdivided according to the type of data verification:

  • DV (Domain Validation) is a basic certificate level that only provides data encryption, but does not confirm the existence of an organization. Such budget certificates are suitable for individuals and legal entities.
  • OV (Organization Validation) – provides not only data encryption, but also confirms the existence of an organization. Such certificates are available only to legal entities.
  • EV (Extended Validation) is an effective solution with the highest protection class, which is actively used in online business. For registration, you need to go through the extended verification procedure, confirm the legality of the organization and the ownership of the domain.

All of these types of certificates encrypt traffic between the site and the browser. In addition, they have additional options:

  • WildCard – protects the connection to the domain and all its subdomains.
  • SAN – protects domains according to the list specified when obtaining an SSL certificate.

Which SSL Certificate Should I Choose?

So, we decided that SSL certificates differ not only in brand and price. Today’s range of offerings cover a wide range of tasks that may require SSL.

For example, if you just want to save your website users from intrusive browser warnings about visiting an unverified site, it will be enough to get a simple DV (Domain Validation) certificate in a few minutes. If you use your online platform for operations that require an increased level of security of company and customer data, you should think about an EV (Extended Validation) certificate. And if you use not one, but several web addresses for the site or sites of the company, Wildcard and SAN certificates are presented for you on the market.

To select the optimal certificate for a specific site, you need to study what the certification authorities offer, paying attention to the following aspects:

  • how SSL is compatible with major browsers;
  • at what level is the protection of user data;
  • how large-scale audit of the organization is carried out;
  • is there a seal of trust.

4 reasons to install an SSL certificate

Data security

Of course, it’s worth starting with this point, because this is the main purpose of using SSL certificates. If you work with personal data of users, you just need to encrypt it during transmission to the server. By itself, the use of a certificate is not a cure for all ills; attackers can intercept data even before it is transmitted to the server on the infected computer or device of the site visitor. However, the use of an encryption protocol is a significant contribution to reducing the vulnerability of the site.

Trust in the site

Users are getting used to the fact that all large projects use SSL certificates. Protected and a lock give the site visitor an idea that he and his data are safe.

Support for third-party services

Some payment systems (Yandex.Money) and services (Google Chrome Voice Assistant) work only with sites with the HTTPS protocol. If the specifics of your work involves interaction with similar services, we recommend that you install an SSL certificate.

Ranking factor

Google has repeatedly stated that support for the HTTPS protocol will become one of the ranking factors. For Yandex, sites using HTTP and HTTPS protocols participate in the ranking on equal terms, however, the search engine means that it is worth connecting SSL if the site allows you to make purchases and other financial transactions.