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Everything You Need to Know About SSL Certificates

know about ssl certificates

Overview

SSL stands for secure socket layer, a worldwide ideal security technology enabling encrypted communication between a server and a browser. SSL Certificate creates a trusted environment where customers confidently shop from the website. 

SSL also ensures data integrity and security. The main motto of SSL is to keep cyber spying activities away from passing information between users’ browsers and the server.

History of SSL:

  • SSL protocol was released with SSL 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0 versions and was deprecated periodically in 2011 and 2015. 
  • SSL 1.0 was never released due to a security flaw. After SSL, TLS (Transport Layer Security) 1.1, 1.2, and 1.3 were released. 
  • TLS 1.0 was launched first, an upgraded version of SSL 3.0. After that, TLS 1.1 was released in 2006, an update of the TLS 1.0 version. 
  • Both TLS 1.0 and 1.1 were deprecated fully in the 2020 year. Even Firefox 24 and Chrome 29 had disabled access to these protocols.

What is an SSL Certificate? 

SSL certificate refers to a digital certificate that encodes data between two machines (browser to server).

The certificate provides authentication and data security. SSL certificate ensures a safe connection to users. 

It activates HTTPS and a secured padlock in the address bar. The certificate works on public key infrastructure (PKI) that offers a public key for encryption and a private key for decryption of the information.

What Is Encryption & its Types? 

Encryption converts simple data into incomprehensible text that unauthorized persons cannot decipher. Such text is also named ciphertext.

Encryption works on cryptographic keys naming a public key and a private key. A public key encodes the information, while a private key decodes the information.

Encryption methods comprise symmetric key algorithms and asymmetric key algorithms.

In Symmetric encryption, a single key is used to encode and decode the information, while in asymmetric encryption, a public key is used to encode the information while the private key is used to decode the information.

Symmetric encryption is a longstanding technique in which the sender and the receiver should use the same key for encryption and decryption.

Symmetric encryption uses Blowfish, AES, RC5, RC6 methods for data encryption and decryption Process. 

On the other hand, asymmetric keys encrypt with a public key and decrypt with a private key.

However, this method is slower compared to symmetric encryption, but it is more secure than the symmetric encryption method.

Symmetric Key Encryption

Asymmetric Key Encryption

  • This type of encryption needs a single key to encrypt and decrypt the data.
  • This type of encryption needs two keys for encryption and decryption of data.
  • Ciphertext size may remain smaller compared to original plain text.
  • Ciphertext size may be greater compared to original plain text.
  • The data encryption process is fast.
  • The data encryption process is slow.
  • In the case of large data transfer, Symmetric encryption is useful.
  • In the case of a small amount of data transfer, Asymmetric encryption is useful.
  • It offers confidentiality but not authenticity and non-repudiation.
  • This method provides confidentiality, authenticity, and non-repudiation.
  • 3DES, AES, DES, and RC4 are examples of symmetric encryption.
  • Diffie-Hellman, ECC, El Gamal, DSA, and RSA are some examples of asymmetric encryption.
  • Resource use is low.
  • Resource use is high.

How does an SSL Certificate work step by step?

SSL certificate provides secure communication that begins with a TLS handshake where two parties communicate a public key and starts a secure communication.

During TLS, handshake session keys are generated, and these keys are used to encrypt and decrypt the communication after the ending of the TLS handshake.

Each new session requires new session keys for encryption. TLS assures that the user is interacting with an intended server.

In addition, TLS assures that the data is not altered after the Message Authentication Code is applied.

 

Why is an SSL Certificate Important?

Data Protection

SSL certificate secures data in transit and is an essential element of the data encryption process. Once the data is encrypted, it can only be decrypted by an intended receiver with a proper key.

In addition, SSL protects data against cyber culprits. The data protection includes ID, login credentials, debit, and credit card numbers.

Identity Affirmation

SSL certificates are issued after a specific validation process. The certificate authority undertakes the validation process.

The process includes domain validation, business validation, and extended validation. A certificate authority checks business details and identity even with third-party sources. 

Boost Search Ranking

Google has started to encourage HTTPS protocol since the beginning of the 2018 year. However, even browsers show insecure warnings while accessing the website on HTTP instead of HTTPS protocol.

Therefore, Google is also in favor of giving minor search ranking if the website runs on HTTPS instead of HTTP.

Enhanced Customers’ Trust

The certificate authority performs a validation process to confirm business identity. It increases customers’ confidence as they believe they are dealing with the verified and secured website. 

All data will remain encrypted. Even an SSL certificate activates a secured padlock and HTTPS in the address bar, a secure sign of a website.

When an EV SSL is on the website, a customer can check the company name and other details with a single click on a padlock in the browser.

 

What is SSL Handshake:

SSL Handshake establishes a secured connection between the server and the browser. A few things should be considered that included in the SSL handshake process like

  • Version of Protocol
  • Cryptographic algorithms
  • Exchange of digital certificates
  • Validation of both sender and receiver
  • Use of Asymmetric key that creates a shared key

ssl handshake steps

  • Initially, the client initiates the handshake with a “Client Hello” message to the server. This message includes a cipher suite, data compression method, SSL version, a string of random bytes named client random.
  • The server then responds with a “Server Hello” message that includes the selected cipher suite, the session ID, random byte string. The server message also contains a digital certificate. In the case of client authentication, the server needs a digital certificate, and it sends a client certificate request. The client certificate request includes supported certificate types, different certificate authorities’ names.
  • The client verifies the server’s digital certificate, confirming the server’s identity. After that, the client verifies the server’s public key. Next, the client generates a pre-master key for the session, encrypted using a public key. After encryption, the client sends the pre-master key to the server.
  • The server uses its private key to decrypt the received pre-master key.
  • The client and the server use a pre-master key to calculate a shared secret key called ‘shared secret.’
  • The client sends an encrypted message decrypted with the shared key.
  • The server receives a message and decrypts it with a shared secret key. After that, for confirmation, the server also sends an encrypted message telling the client to decode it with a shared private key.
  • Thus, both the client and server send an encrypted message and decrypt it with the shared secret key.
  • Finally, the client and the server exchange messages with a shared secret key for the rest of the session. 

What Details Does an SSL Certificate Include?

An SSL certificate includes the details of the person/company to whom the certificate is issued. For example, the details could look like this, as shown below.

  • Domain Name
  • Validity Period of Certificate
  • Certificate Authority (CA) Details
  • Public Key
  • Public Key Algorithm
  • SSL/TLS Version
  • Certificate Signature Algorithm
  • Thumbprint
  • Thumbprint Algorithm

Besides the above information, there are a few validation types in which further information is included, as shown below.

  • Organization Name
  • Website owner Name
  • Address
  • City
  • State
  • Country

What are the diverse types of SSL certificates?

SSL certificates follow three validation processes and certificate types to fulfill different businesses’ security needs.

Domain Validated certificates (DV SSL)

Domain Validation certificate (DV SSL) is a cost-effective and fast way to receive an SSL certificate. This type of validation checks domain ownership and requires no other documentation for verification. 

The certificate takes a few minutes in issuance and activates HTTPS and a secured padlock in the browser.

Domain validation certificate is ideal for testing environments, small businesses, blogs, forums, internal servers, and domain testing. 

Organization Validated certificates (OV SSL)

An organization Validation certificate is a higher-level certificate than a domain validation certificate. The certificate authority here checks domain ownership and business-related documents to check whether the business is registered or not. 

The certificate is suitable for public-facing websites. Once the certificate is installed, it triggers HTTPS and a secured padlock in the browser. The certificate takes 1-3 days in the issuance process.

Extended Validation certificates (EV SSL)

Extended Validation certificates (EV SSL) are one step up from organization validation and bring the highest level of the validation process. As a result, the certificate enhances the confidence of customers to deal with the website positively. 

For example, a user can click on a padlock to check registered business details to add trust levels to visitors and customers. 

Extended Validation certificate is ideally fit for finance, legal and e-commerce, payment processors; the certificate authority here performs a strict validation process, including domain validation, organization validation, and confirmation with third-party resources. 

Wildcard SSL certificates

Wildcard SSL certificate is designed to secure the primary domain and subdomains of the first level. The certificate falls under domain validation and organization validation types. 

The main object of buying a wildcard SSL certificate is to save money and effective SSL management.

The wildcard certificate comes with an asterisk (*) placed before the domain name. An asterisk lets you protect unlimited subdomains. You can check the wildcard SSL example below.

www.mycompany.com can secure below subdomains

  • login.mycompany.com
  • news.mycompany.com
  • anything.mycompany.com
  • blog.mycompany.com

Multi-Domain SSL certificates (MDC): 

Multi-Domain SSL certificate is a cost-efficient certificate for those enterprises that wish to manage all different domains and subdomains under a single certificate.

There is no need to manage a single certificate for each domain/subdomain, as certificate management will be easy. 

Moreover, a single expiry could avert the certificate from a certificate lapse. You can get an idea from the below example of this certificate. Moreover, you can add extra domain/SANs during the certificate’s lifecycle.

A business or individual can have a primary domain like www.domain1.com and can add below domains/subdomains

  • mail.domain1.com
  • payment.domain2.net
  • news.domain.co.in
  • login.abc.domain2.co.nz
  • anything.anydomain.edu

Unified Communications Certificate (UCC):

UCC or Unified Communications Certificate can secure multiple domains and subdomains and works as a multi-domain certificate.

However, the certificate is designed for Microsoft Exchange and office communication, Live communication servers. UCC certificates can secure, for instance, domains and subdomains.

  • www.example1.com
  • www.example2.net
  • developer.example.co.in
  • abc.xyz.anydomain.com
  • mail.example1.com

What is PKI & Where is PKI used?

PKI (Public Key Infrastructure) includes public-key encryption management and the issuance of a digital certificate. It includes generation, spreading, recognition, and revocation of public keys.

In addition, PKI defines the user role related to policies, processes, hardware, and software.

Components of PKI:

A PKI comprises below components or elements. A PKI can secure involved identities and confidential information while applying digital security by covering these elements.

Digital Certificates

A digital certificate is a core part of PKI, and it is an electronic identity of an organization and website.

Both identities can be verified through the certificates. There are two types of certificates like self-signed and third-party (certificate authority) digital certificates. Self-Signed certificates are not trusted by the browser community, while browsers, OS, mobile devices mostly trust third-party certificates.

Certificate Authority

Before issuing a certificate, a certificate authority (the CA)verifies the digital identity.

The user can be an organization, individual. The CA prohibits false identity and provides trusted root certificates for all PKI certificates for trust factors. The CA also manages the total issued of several digital certificates.

Registration Authority:

The registration authority is a part of PKI and gets the request from a user for certificate issuance and forwards it to the certificate authority.

The registration authority is a go-between or intermediary that collects required details to process the device certificate request, user validation, user authentication, revocation of details in case of an invalid certificate.

PKI is required at the time of digital signature, network security, email encryption, file description, smart card authentication, password recovery, IoT security, online communication.

 

What are Algorithms used in SSL?

Different algorithms are used in SSL certificates, namely symmetric and asymmetric encryption

Symmetric encryption includes three types: DES, 3DES, AES algorithm, while Asymmetric encryption includes RSA encryption, DSA, EI Gamal, ECC encryption. 

Symmetric encryption holds a single key for encryption and decryption, while asymmetric encryption holds two keys for encryption and decryption. Symmetric encryption is faster than asymmetric encryption. 

It is a straightforward process of encryption and uses low computational power. Symmetric encryption uses small keys and is suitable for encrypting large data. 

DES: 

DES was introduced in 1976 alters 64-bit blocks of plain text into encoded text and divides them into two 32-bit blocks individually while applying encryption. DES was used in TLS 1.0 and 1.1 versions. DES is not used nowadays and is replaced by AES encryption. DES encryption was used as a low encryption key. TLS 1.2 is the latest protocol and is not using the DES algorithm.

3DES: 

3DES or triple data encryption algorithm is the next version of the DES algorithm. It was applied in the 1990 year.

3DES is applied three times and used in the payment systems, finance industry. TLS, OpenVPN, IPsec, SSH protocols use the 3DES algorithm. The Sweet32 vulnerability was found in the 3DES algorithm, and the NIST denounced it in 2019.

AES: 

The NIST approved the AES algorithm in 2001. The AES algorithm was introduced as an alternative to the DES algorithm.

AES works on permutation and substitution. The data is divided into blocks, and encryption is applied later on.

AES is a rapid, safe, and flexible algorithm. AES is used in wireless security, file encryption, processor security, mobile app encryption, Wi-Fi security. 

Asymmetric encryption works on key pairs in which one key is used to encode the information while the other key is used to decode the information.

Asymmetric encryption is a faster process and uses more computational power.

It uses longer keys like 2048-bit and 4096-bit. Asymmetric encryption is ideal where a small amount of information requires authentication. This type of encryption is for encryption, non-repudiation, and validation.

Asymmetric encryption follows two types, including RSA encryption and ECC encryption.

RSA Encryption: 

RSA encryption is a used algorithm. It comes with different key lengths ranging from 768-bit to 4096-bit. Due to different keys, it can minimize the difficulty of brute force attacks by applying higher keys.

Strong security and PKI adaptability make RSA a favorite. Email encryption, SSL certificate, and cryptocurrency are areas where RSA is used.

ECC Encryption: 

ECC Encryption came into use in 2005. Due to its complex nature, ECC provides much better security. ECC having shorter keys seems hard to crack against brute force attacks.

It requires less computational power and networking loading and is ideal for limited storage devices. Also, ECC reduces the time of SSL handshake.

 

What happens if you do not have an SSL certificate?

In the absence of an SSL, Google Chrome and other browsers will deem your website insecure and throw a warning.

Moreover, it causes a loss of trust in customers and search rankings. Moreover, if you accept payment via credit or debit card, it is essential for a website. 

Here, PCI DSS- Payment Control Industry Data Security Standard security standard requirement needs to be followed.

In the absence of an SSL cert, there is a provision of penalty from PCI SSC- Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council that can vary from $5000 to $100000 per month. Small businesses cannot bear such a huge penalty amount. Therefore, it is wise to install an SSL certificate on the website.

 

How to Generate CSR?

CSR (certificate signing request) is a code that contains a domain name, organization, organization unit, email address, city, locality, state, country details. CSR should be generated on the server. 

CSR includes a public key. Many servers like cPanel, Apache, WHM, Tomcat, Plesk, IIS, Exchange server, Sonic Wall, etc. that follow the different processes of CSR generation.

You can generate CSR for yourself if you have the technical knowledge. Otherwise, you can take the help of an SSL provider in CSR generation.

CSR should start with —–BEGIN CERTIFICATE REQUEST—–tag. CSR should end with —–END CERTIFICATE REQUEST—– tag. In many servers, a private key is also created with the CSR. It states the certificate authority that the SSL applicant holds of the private key.

 

How to Install an SSL certificate?

The SSL installation process depends upon the server type you choose. SSL installation process should be on the particular server on which you had generated the CSR.

In the case of multiple servers, you need to install the same SSL cert on each server. 

To complete the installation process, you need a main certificate file, intermediate and root (CA Bundle) file, and private key. Here, SSL installation on cPanel (control panel) is explained.

  • Login to cPanel
  • Under the ‘Security‘ section, click on SSL/TLS Manager.
  • Click on ‘Generate, view, upload, or delete SSL Certificates‘ in the ‘Certificates‘ section.
  • Import main certificate file that can be done in two ways: copy domain name. crt into a text box and click on the Upload button. Else, click on the Browse button to locate the domainname.crt file.
  • Click on ‘Go Back
  • Now, ‘Return to SSL manager‘ is located at the bottom of the page.
  • Click on ‘Setup an SSL Certificate to work with your site.’
  • Now, choose the domain name from a drop-down menu. It will fetch the private key and certificate file automatically.
  • Under the CA Bundle box, copy the root and intermediate file (CA Bundle) content. Click on Install Certificate. 

FAQs – SSL Certificates:

Why is an SSL Certificate Important?

SSL certificate secures the information between the server and the browser. There are below reasons to have an SSL certificate for website security.

  • SSL encrypts the information
  • SSL offers authentication by passing information to the intended server rather than the fake identity.
  • Enhances the trust of customers towards the website.
  • It is needed to follow PCI DSS standards.
  • With an SSL certificate, your website will have a better search ranking.

How will people know my website is protected?

A secure website carries HTTPS and a secured padlock in the address bar of a browser. If a site URL starts with HTTP, the site is insecure, and browsers even warn users.

 

Who needs SSL?

SSL requires for you:

  • You have a website with a login page that collects usernames and passwords.
  • If you have forms that collect users’ information.
  • If you are running e-commerce, finance, payment processor website.

What is the SSL site seal?

A site seal is a visual signal that shows customers that the website has an SSL certificate and their data on the website will remain safe. A site seal can be placed on a page where higher authentication is required.

 

What is CSR & How to generate CSR Key?

A CSR is a code created on the server and sent to the certificate authority. The CSR contains a domain name, organization, email address, country, locality, state, etc. In addition, CSR has a public key that will be included in the certificate, and the certificate will be signed with a private key.

CSR generation depends upon the type of server you created. Therefore, you need to follow the stepwise process to install an SSL certificate on a server. Different servers like cPanel, Exchange, IIS, Plesk, SonicWall, OpenSSL, etc.

 

How can I get a cheap SSL certificate?

Different certificate authorities and resellers can offer you a low-cost SSL certificate as per the website’s requirements. However, cheapsslshop.com is a cheap SSL provider that caters to diverse types of SSL certificates

Starting from a single domain to a multi-domain, a Code Signing certificate is available that could fit in your budget. Whether a small business or a large corporation, CheapSSLShop understands emerging web security needs and provides the best SSL solution.

 

Do I need to create a new CSR to renew my certificate?

Renewal of an SSL certificate is like issuing a new certificate. Therefore, it is necessary to create a new CSR to renew your certificate.

 

How do I reissue my SSL certificate?

The reissue is a free-of-cost process where you need to create a CSR on the server and submit it to the SSL provider, complete the domain control validation process, and the reissued certificate will be emailed to you. After that, you can install it on the server.

 

How do I renew an SSL certificate?

  • You need to start a new process again, like purchasing a new certificate. 
  • Create a new CSR and submit it to the SSL provider. Save private key on the server/desktop.
  • Complete the SSL configuration process.
  • Complete the domain control validation process. The authority will ask for business-related documents and other details (in case of OV and EV)
  • Get Renewed SSL delivered in your email.
  • Follow the installation process and install an SSL certificate on the server.

What is the SSL certificate warranty?

SSL certificate covers any damage arising from the mis-issuance of a certificate to a false identity.

 

What is data encryption, and why are there various levels?

Data Encryption converts plain text data into an indecipherable format to avert prying eyes. The data, once encrypted, can only be decrypted with the intended person using a private key. The sender and receiver can encode and decode the data using a key.

Different encryption methods like DES, 3DES, AES, RSA, ECC, Blowfish, Twofish.

DES: DES came into effect in 1976, but the latest TLS version does not use it due to security weakness.

3DES: 3DES is the upgraded version of DES, which applies 56-bit each key three times on data. However, the NIST has mentioned not to use it in the 2019 year due to the Sweet32 vulnerability.

AES: AES came into force in 2001, which the US government and businesses accept. AES is a fast and secure algorithm.

RSA: RSA algorithm is used in different areas. RSA can have a longer key length up to 4096-bit. RSA can reduce the risk of brute force attack by extending key length in usage.

ECC: ECC offers an improved security level with short keys. If you compare 256-bit ECC keys, it equals a 3072-bit RSA key. It is used in SSL/TLS handshake.

Blowfish: Blowfish is a legacy encryption method that divides a message into 64-bit blocks and encodes messages. However, Twofish has replaced it.

Twofish: Twofish is an unpatented encryption method used in software and hardware. It is an asymmetric type of encryption that can render a 256-bit key for encryption.

 

What are the benefits of having an SSL certificate on my website?

There are ample benefits you will get once you have an SSL cert on your website like-

  • Security for website
  • Data encryption
  • Website authentication
  • Enhance customers’ confidence
  • Boosting Search Rankings

What is an encryption key? 

An encryption key is used to encode and decode the data between the server and the browser. It is to make sure that the key generated each time should be unique. Encryption keys are made with algorithms. The longer the key is, the harder it is to break it.

 

How many separate domains can I protect with HTTPS?

SSL certificates are of diverse types that secure multiple domains and subdomains under a single certificate. For example, multi-domain and wildcard SSL certificates. 

When you wish to secure subdomains (blog.abc.com, mail.abc.com) then, a wildcard SSL is an ideal option. On the other hand, when you wish to secure multiple domains (blog.com, blog.net, abc.blog.nz) then, a multi-domain SSL certificate is an ideal option.

 

What does browser compatibility mean?

Browser compatibility, in general, refers to the website’s capacity to function on different browsers. For SSL, browser compatibility refers to the number of browsers who trust an SSL certificate. Most browsers, including Firefox, IE, Chrome, Safari, Opera, have root certificates of reputed certificate authorities to build trust during a connection.

 

Which Servers are compatible with SSL certificates?

SSL certificate carries 99.9% browser, OS, and server compatibility. It means you can install an SSL certificate on any server, and it would work without any incompatibility. Few servers you can count on are our cPanel, MS Exchange Server, IIS, OpenSSL, Apache, Plesk, Tomcat, etc.

 

What kind of data does an SSL certificate contain?

SSL certificate contains details like domain name, organization name to which certificate is issued, certificate authority name, associated subdomains, issue date, expiry date, public key.

 

Conclusion: 

SSL certificate is now necessary for each website, either blog, forum, or e-commerce website. Without HTTPS, your customers will not trust the website. It is necessary to buy an SSL certificate if you have not done it.

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