What Are SSL Certificates and How to Get One

The internet has exposed us to many security risks. Hackers can easily access your credit card information, Social Security Number, and other sensitive information. To prevent this, web developers usually take the precautionary step of encrypting data between the server and your browser. This process is made possible through the use of SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificates. Your sensitive information is transferred through several computers before arriving at the server, at which point it is decrypted. Before decryption, no one can get your personal information.

ssl certificate https illustration

What Are SSL Certificates?

The question- what are SSL certificates? cannot be answered in a single statement. SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer. Any website with https:/ before their domain name is secured with an SSL certificate. You should also watch out for the padlock symbol against the web address. SSL certificates are tiny data files that are meant to activate the padlock and HTTPS protocol on the website, therefore, ensuring secure connections.

Whenever you send a request to the website’s server, it will send a reply that establishes the secure connection. This step is commonly referred to as the SSL handshake. Once the certificate is verified through the SSL handshake, the data transmitted between the website and your server will be encrypted.

SSL certificates simply ensure confidence between the website and visitor. This is the standard for internet security in almost all industries. Internet users are willing to share their private information and even transact with websites that are secured with this service. SSL certificates should be issued by trusted providers and websites have to submit their updated WHOIS records before they can be validated and given the security certificates.

Who Uses SSL Certificates?

SSL certificates are meant to secure online monetary transactions. For such purposes, customers and clients usually have to submit personal and sensitive details regarding their identity and credit cards. With this information, it is easy for thieves to steal your identity and even money. For this reason, SSL certificates are commonly used in online stores.

Also, businesses that sell tickets or make hotel reservations always use SSL certificates. This is because they involve financial transactions. Gambling sites and other similar services must also be secured for the same reason.

In some cases, there is no real risk of theft. Still, such websites make a point of getting SSL certification since this promotes confidence between the vendor and the customer. Very few people would be willing to transact with sites that don’t have secure URLs. Online shoppers who know what are SSL certificates can easily tell if a site has a secure URL. All they need to check is the ‘https’ before the site’s URL.

Ways in which SSL Certificates Can Help Your Website

SSL certificates are important for web-based businesses. Anyone sending payments over the internet needs to know that their information is safe and only decrypted by the intended recipient. Most people know what are SSL certificates and are not ready to work with an insecure site.

  • It provides authenticity

The nature of the internet means that data sent from a user’s browser travels through several computers before getting to your servers. Any of these computers could act as your website and steal the user’s information. Many online shoppers are aware of this risk and will, therefore, not purchase products from your site unless they see your certification. SSL certificates only allow the information to be decrypted at your server.

  • It promotes trust

Trust is very important in business. Customers and clients will not do business online if they have no reason to trust your website. Many web browsers are designed to give a visual signal of the level of trust a website has. With an SSL certificate, your website will be marked as trustable. Phishing attacks from online criminals will not be successful since such websites don’t usually get approved for SSL certificates.

  • It can help improve the ranking of your website on Google

Google is using SSL certificates as a ranking factor in an attempt to improve the security of the internet. They aim to encourage more websites to obtain SSL certification. Doing this can increase the visibility of your business on the internet.

5 Important Tips regarding SSL Certificates

1. Only Buy SSL Certificates from Trusted Providers

Usually, the prices and features offered are the same. The difference mostly lies in how well-known the SSL provider is. If your customers view your SSL certificate and fail to see a familiar name, they are likely to discard it as bogus. Reliability is also an important consideration. Some SSL providers have swindled online stores with fake certificates and made away with a lot of money. Your customers will lose confidence in you if they find out that your SSL certificate is compromised.

2. Use 2048-bit Key SSL Certificates

SSL certificates are provided in either 1024 or 2048-bit keys. 1024-bit keys are currently considered unsafe. On the other hand, 20148-bit keys are so secure that an average computer would take over 10 billion years to crack the certificate. Larger keys can still be created, but this is considered unnecessary. Besides, larger keys will worsen the computation burden.

3. Change All Your Internal Links

Your internal links should all start with // instead of https:// as this will affect the proper functioning of your site. All references to JavaScript files, images and CSS also need to be altered when switching to an SSL-secured website.

4. Choose the SSL Level Correctly

Understanding what are SSL certificates also requires you to know the various levels available. The authentication levels are Domain Validation (DV), Organization Validation (OV), and Extended Validation (EV).

A higher level of authentication will inspire confidence in your customers. DV certification is basic and is meant for blogs and websites that do not involve online financial transactions. OV certification will take longer to issue and requires you to provide more information about your business. EV SSL certificates are the most secure and assure visitors of the ownership of the website. The encryption of data among all levels is the same, but the level of authenticity and trust differs. It is almost impossible for criminals to get OV and EV SSL certificates.


It is important for all websites to get SSL certificates for the security of their sites and to inspire confidence in their visitors. Sites with high-level SSL certificates are authentic and are very secure from criminal activities. If we missed anything crucial about what are SSL certificates, please leave it in the comment section below.

Image from depositphotos.com.