When you visit a site, your browser checks for the authenticity of the website by checking its SSL certificate. After the verification of the website, you can communicate further. The browser makes sure that you are connected to an HTTP secured site with a valid SSL certificate and not to a fake site, which may be pretending to be the original. For this purpose, the browser tests whether the SSL certificate has been signed by a reputable root certificate authority. If not, then the browser shows a non-secure warning so you can make an informed decision to quit or continue. Before going in detail of the trusted root CA, you must know about SSL certificates and their working.
What is an SSL Certificate?
An SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) or TLS (Transport Layer Security) is a security protocol that makes sure that the data transmission between the user and the webserver is encrypted. Almost all the online businesses in the world use an SSL security protocol to run their organization safely. An SSL/TLS provides security during the exchange of sensitive information (credit card details, username, passwords) over the internet. It lowers the chances of data being stolen by scammers and man-in-the-middle (MITM) attacks.
To establish this safe connection, an SSL certificate is installed on the website. This certificate is issued by a third-party certificate authority. This SSL certificate confirms the validity of a website and makes sure that the data transmission is encrypted on this site. You can check the authenticity of a website by clicking on the padlock on the left side of the browser.
SSL certificates have different types whose basic introduction is given below:
Single Domain SSL Certificate- secures only one domain
Wildcard SSL Certificate- protects the main domain and all of its sub-domains
Multi-Domain SSL Certificate- provides safety for numerous domains and all of their sub-domains
All of these certificates perform the same task of encryption/decryption, but they differ from each other based on validation levels. There are three validation level SSL certificates:
Domain Validated SSL Certificate- quick verification, least expensive, no paperwork
Organization Validated SSL Certificate- strong all-around security, reliable, verification of domain and organization
Extended Validated SSL Certificate- strongest of all, protection against phishing attacks, full verification of domain name, organization, organization address.
You can easily buy a cheap SSL certificate, which fits your business, from any of the famous SSL certificate providers.
The certificate authorities are what make the whole process work smoothly. You can issue an SSL certificate to yourself without CA, which is called a self-signed certificate. But if you do, it will not make your website secure and the browsers will show a “non-secure” warning whenever a user will visit your site. The question is how would you know which root certificate authority to trust?
What is a Trusted Root Certificate Authority?
When you visit a website, your browser checks for the validity of the site. The browsers trust some third parties, known as certificate authorities, to authenticate a website. A trusted root certificate authority has one or more roots that are reserved in the trust stores of all major browsers. The trust stores are also known as “root stores”. These stores contain the names of all the trusted root certificate authorities. Your browser heads to the root store to check the validity of the SSL certificate of a secure site you are visiting. If the SSL certificate issuing authority’s name is included in that list, your connection is safe and secure, otherwise, you need to move on to the next server.
How to Check the Name of trusted Root Authority that Provided SSL Certificate?
If you are using Google Chrome, click on the padlock sign you see on the left of the browser. After this click on the “certificate” and then move to the “Certificate Path”.
There, you will see two, three, or maybe four certificates. The root certificate is not directly issued to you, but it is a step-by-step process.
Root Certificate: The root certificate is also known as a trusted root certificate, issued by root CAs. The root certificate is used for issuing an intermediate certificate. The root certificate authority does not issue the SSL certificate to the end-users directly.
Intermediate Certificate: Intermediate certificate authority acts as a sub-certificate authority. These certificates are authorized by root certificates and are then provided to end-users. They act as an extra security layer to avoid any security risks.
As shown in the figure above, first the root certificate authority issued a certificate to the sub-certificate authority. This sub-certificate authority then issued a certificate to another sub-certificate authority. Then, this intermediate authority signed the final certificate to the client.
Here, two intermediate certificate authorities are acting as a security layer. The intermediate certificates build a trust-chain between the users and the root certificate authorities. This trust-chain is upheld firmly to avoid any security threats. So, in case of any safety problem, root certificates remain secure.
Example of an SSL Certificate Trust-chain
If you see the certificate details of cheapsslshop.com then you will find that:
- The www.cheapsslshop.com certificate is installed on the webserver that runs cheapsslshop.com
- The www.cheapsslshop.com certificate is issued by the “Sectigo RSA Domain Validation Secure Server CA” certificate, which is the intermediate certificate.
- The intermediate certificate is signed by the “USERTrust RSA Certificate Authority” certificate, which is another intermediate CA.
- This intermediate certificate is allotted by the verified certificate authority, “Sectigo (AAA)”
- Your browser checks for the Sectigo (AAA) trusted root certificate in its trust store. If the certificate is available in the store, then the browser will show the website is secure and trustworthy.
Why Should You Purchase an SSL Certificate from a Trusted Root CA?
As explained earlier, when a client lands on a site, the browser tests the legitimacy of the SSL certificate of that website. If you have installed a self-signed SSL certificate on your server, it will not be available on the root store and the browser will mark your site as “non-secure”. This is enough for the users to back out of your website which is surely going to be a problem for you.
On the other hand, if you use the SSL certificate provided by a trusted root CA on your web server then it will ensure the safety of your site and the users will feel more comfortable in safely sharing content on your site. This will build a trust relationship between your site and the clients which means more sales and conversions. Also, the ranking of your website gets higher by using an SSL certificate of a trusted root certificate authority.
Besides, there are resellers who offer a cheap SSL certificate and provides a great discount on different kinds of SSL certificate types. They give the same quality SSL certificate but at a budget price. If you are planning to purchase an SSL certificate, you could consider them also.
The SSL certificates are a must for your online business, and you should buy them wisely from the trusted root certificate authorities.
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