Home / Definitions / SSL Certificate

SSL Certificate

Chika C Uchendu
Last Updated August 2, 2022 5:38 am

A SSL (Secure Socket Layer) Certificate is a digital license that ensures an encrypted data connection between a website or server and users. The SSL certificate is issued by the certification authority (CA)—a trusted entity responsible for the authentication of digital identities such as the company’s websites, email addresses, etc. The certificate authority authenticates this digital identity by issuing an electronic document format that tells users of a website or other digital entities of the safety of that website. Therefore, SSL certificates ensure adequate digital security on the part of the users and owners of websites.

What are the key features of an SSL certificate?

Some core features of an SSL certificate are:

  • Public-key cryptography: The certificate employs public-key cryptography. Public key cryptography contains two keys, a private and a public key. The private key decrypts encrypted data coming from website users, while the public key protects data against third-party access via encryption.
  • Domain-server interdependence: SSL certificates ensure seamless communication between the server and the domain. The domain identifies the IP address of a website while the server provides the necessary resources needed for the domain to function.
  • Digital signatures: SSL certificates verify the authenticity of websites and their users by using an electronic algorithm. This verification validates the integrity of the user and websites.
  • Multi-factor authentication: SSL certificates ensure better use of multi-factor authentication (MFA) to identify claims made by users of a website. The users need to present evidence that is verified through identity and access management (IAM) before having access to their online resources.

Who uses SSL certificates, and what do they use them for?

Most organizations that operate a website use an SSL certificate which is encoded on the web’s server. The SSL certificate ensures that information is confidentially shared between the users and the websites. A website with an SSL certificate has the URL starting with “HTTPS,” while those without this certificate have “HTTP.” The absence of “s” indicates that the website is not protected from data interception and misuse.

How does an SSL certificate work?

The SSL certificate works using two keys (private and public key) to encrypt the data being shared by a user and the website. These two keys work on the principle of public-key cryptography. The public key is openly available and is recognized by the web server, and is used to encrypt data directly transferred between a user and the website. On the other hand, the private key allows the website to decrypt the encrypted data coming from a user. Only website owners can see the data transferred from the user to the website or from the server to the website.

Benefits of using SSL certificates

SSL certificate ensures no third-party interference between users and websites; this safeguards most websites against cyber-attack. Besides, the SSL certificate boosts a website ranking on Google. A boost in Google’s ranking invariably signals a higher conversion rate, especially for websites involved in e-commerce. When a website is authenticated through the SSL certificate, the brand becomes trusted by clients, saving the owner the stress of trying to convince potential customers. In addition, browsers like Firefox and Google Chrome will immediately signal users that the website they want to access is not secure if it does not have an SSL certificate.