The web is a wide opened world, and we have all been thought that in order to be safe, for us to be able to conduct online transactions and read our emails without others having the chance to see our private information, we need to make sure that padlock appears in our browser. All of this security is provided by a set of protocols, and depending on how deep you dig in, you eventually arrive to a security mechanism called digital certificates.
All of our online security actually depends on these certificates, and here we will see what they are, what their purposes are, and where to get them from.
Digital certificates look a lot like birth certificates or those that we can earn in a school or college. Basically, they identify someone, or rather, specific information about somebody.
A birth certificate says who you are and where you were born. They are trustworthy because they were emitted by a known entity who vouches for the information on it, just like that college degree you received. If you printed your own certificate, it would not be worth much at all. In the digital world, they work the same way.
Basically, a certificate is a virtual representation of yourself. You can get them from one of many so-called Certificate Authorities, and they in turn vouch that the information you placed on that piece of virtual paper, is truthful. Or, just like in real life, you can make up your own, but then don’t expect others to trust the data on it.
So what can you do with those digital certificates? Without going into too many details, the reason why a padlock appears on your browser, and your connection to your bank cannot be broken by a third party, is because of something called Public Key Cryptography.
This is a technique that allows you to encrypt your communication using the bank’s public key, and that encrypted data can only be decrypted by the matching private key, held only by the bank. Here’s what happens behind the scenes. Every client or server process has a private and public key. These are used together to encrypt data. When your browser wants to send encrypted data, it asks the server for its public key. Then, using this key, it can encrypt data that will only be decryptable by whoever has the private key.
Since only the server has this corresponding private key, that means you can send that data over the wire, in the clear, and no one can read what is contained inside of this encryption because they do not have the private key.
But for all of this to work, for the public and private keys to match, all of this rests on digital certificates.
The public key is included in that certificate, along with the server name, expiration date, emitting authority, and other details. So the first thing your browser does when connecting to the bank’s web site gathers its digital certificate which contains the public key.
This is how your computer knows how to encrypt data, and this is how it knows that you are truly communicating with your bank, email provider, or whichever secure site you typed in because that certificate was issued by a trusted provider.
Domain Validated Certificates: DV SSL certificates are designed to secure a single domain or subdomain. With a rapid issuance and easy validation process, DV SSL certificates can be available at the lowest price. The certificate is ideal for bloggers, forums, single website holders. The certificate authority only verifies the domain authority of an SSL user and issues a certificate within a few minutes.
Organization Validated Certificates: OV SSL certificate is a step ahead of a DV certificate in case of the validation process. OV SSL certificate confirms the operational existence of a business with government records and third-party verified databases. The certificate takes up to 4 days in issuance. The certificate establishes the identity of a business over the web to assure visitors that they are on the encrypted and secured site.
Extended Validation Certificates: EV SSL certificate carries the highest validation of a business in which the certificate authority checks the business’s legal, physical, and operational presence with third-party business directories and government records. The authority also calls on a registered phone number for tele verification. Visitors can check with a click on a padlock in the address bar to verify the company name.
Benefits of Using a Digital Certificate
Data integrity is one of the pillars of a digital certificate as the data flow between the server and the browser remains intact. The certificate ensures that users can send their credentials, personal Information without any worry as all information will be encrypted with 256-bit encryption and 2048-bit key encryption.
Strong encryption makes it next to impossible for cyber thieves to steal ongoing information between two ends (the server>>the user) Data confidentiality can be achieved with a digital SSL certificate. A public key is used to encode the information while on other hand, the private key is to decode the sent data so there are no chances of data leakage.
Digital certificate checks whether the sent message or data is from the person they claim to be. Organization and extended validation are there to authenticate the business identity and legal presence. Once the certificate authority confirms the identity, the organization receives the certificate and installs it on the server. A customer when dealing with the site, he knows that he is communicating with the verified identity.
- Easy to manage:
It offers easy management for the tasks like renewal, reissue, change of domain name, private key generation. All these certificate-related tasks can be managed smoothly. Even an It can be installed on multiple servers in case of multiple domains and subdomains.
- Easy to implement:
It is cost-effective and requires no additional hardware tool for installation. Each installation requires different guidelines depending upon the server type like cPanel, Apache, IIS, Exchange Server, etc.
What Is the Difference between a Digital Certificate and a Digital Signature?
Certificate authorities issue a Digital Certificate after verifying the identity of the SSL requester. The authority checks that the requester has met all the requirements to issue a digital certificate. Users when checking the certificate they can ensure the certificate information includes version, Issuer, valid from and valid to, subject alternate name, issuer, certificate issuer’s sign, certificate serial number.
The information of a certificate helps to track the owner and the certificate authority who issues a certificate. The information is also checked to identify the certificate’s status.
Digital Signature is an electronic authentication stamp on the data and confirms that the data has not changed since it was signed by the signer. The digital signature provides authentication, data integrity, non-repudiation. Digital signature works on Public key Infrastructure (PKI) which is a globally accepted format and provides the highest level of security. Digital signature used to prevent forging and document tampering.
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