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Everything You Need to Know About SSL Certificates

This article will tell you all about the different types of SSL certificates. In today’s modern era, everybody uses the internet. Whether it’s to research a paper for school, order an item online, or to play video games with friends, the online resources are all out there, on the World Wide Web. However, with such an open resource, users’ privacy and data can be at risk. Secure Sockets Layer, also abbreviated as SSL, is the cryptographic protection process installed on a website. 

The digital protocol protects sensitive data between two parties. In more technical terms, SSL allows for a person’s data to be encrypted until it reaches its intended recipient. Then the data will then be decrypted for its necessary uses. As a result, SSL safeguards sensitive information so that any potential hackers can’t read or steal it. All types of SSL certificates act as a formal validation, or verification, of that security being present. 

types of SSL certificates

SSL Certificates

To provide more context, SSL certificates are crucial when an organization needs to digitally receive a person’s data. 

Let’s take a customer ordering an item online, as an example. They have to input their payment info, mailing address, and contact information, etc. SSL protects that information as it transfers to the company’s website. Then, it is processed in whatever regard the company needs it to be. The customer can exit the page, knowing their information is not accessible to anyone else, and the website earns a sale.

Without an SSL, users’ privacy is at risk. As a direct result, their user experiences can be compromised. If customers see their data not being respected, the organization risks losing its trustworthiness and reliability.

SSL certificates come in various forms and costs to better match an entity’s specific needs. 

Domain Type

In general, domains can be important to an organization’s branding and potential expansion. When purchasing SSL certificates, the quantity and type of domains are a necessary factor to consider. The right domain type of SSL equips organizations to reach its projected goals and size.

Single Domain

This certificate is simple. As implied in the name, it grants one domain with no subdomain. A single domain certificate is perfect for small niche blogs and smaller-scale company websites.

SSL certificate

Wildcard Domain

With a Wildcard SSL, organizations can earn unlimited subdomains with just one main domain. For example, the certificate claims domain.com with sub1.domain.com, sub2.domain.com, etc. 

Expanding businesses can use these as they can add another domain wherever and whenever appropriate, without having to buy more SSL certificates.

Multi-Domain 

Also known as Unified Communications or Subject Alternative Name certificates, this certificate allows buyers to have a maxim of 100 domains. All websites would be unified by this one certificate, which makes it appealing to larger-scale organizations.

Validation Level

In combination with domain types, SSL certificates are offered in different validation levels. In cryptography, SSL are certified by third party entities, or rather more commonly, certification authorities, also known as CAs. A different process is in place to earn each validation level. 

Domain Validated Certificate (DV SSL)

Generally, DV SSL are on the lower costing scale because they also have the lowest verification. Without the need to submit as intensive business documents, the certificate can be issued in a short time frame. The application process can be completely digital or at the very most, accomplished through an email and phone call. 

The validation is limited to domain being claimed by an individual. It is commonly seen in low-profile websites, such as blogs, which may not necessarily need high-security. Regardless, the website will still earn a Secure Site Seal. 

SSL security

Organization Validated Certificate (OV SSL) 

Unlike the DV SSL, this certificate verifies the business, as its own entity, to be real. CAs go the extra mile to perform mild background checks of the company. OV SSL can take up to a few business days to be issued.

The verified information will be associated with its Secure Site Seal. The certificate is useful for organizations that require a minimum amount of consumer information, such as a small ecommerce website. 

Extended Validation Certificate (EV SSL)

EV SSL is the highest validation level because it entails the most verification. CAs extensively checks all business components: legal documents, physical location, business records. 

An EV SSL also recognizes the company’s exclusive right for their domain. High-profile websites that use identity-targeted data – personal and online payment information – use this type of certificates. 

Free SSL Certificate

SSL certificates are usually earned through working with a certification authority. As stated above, the step-to-step processes vary based on the SSL validation level and domain type. Outside of those options, some organizations also appeal to less traditional SSL certificates for its unique qualities.

For businesses wanting to lower security costs, free SSL certificates are out there. Let’s Encrypt and SSL for Free are known for being established free SSL providers.  

Nonprofit CAs often provide free SSL certificates. They typically advocate for accessible security in hopes of having an overall safer internet. 

Having a free SSL certificate, over no security system, means users have earned a domain that provides information encryption, at no costs. 

However, the free resource comes with its own set of caveats.

With paid certificates, there’s more of a combination of options to choose from. However, if an organization chooses a free SSL, they’ll be limited to only the domain validation certificate. Like any other domain validation certificate, it doesn’t include exclusive ownership to the domain. 

Additionally, the life span is limited to only about three months. While the renewal process can still be free, organizations will have to repeat it on a relatively frequent basis. In comparison to a paid certificate, the life span is usually two years. 

There are also little to no technical support or warranties.

free SSL certificate

Self-Signed SSL 

Then, there are self-signed SSL certificates, which encrypt information at no cost. As implied in the name, the organization’s legitimacy is verified by themselves. This process excludes the common additional vouching of any third-parties, including CAs. 

However, search engines don’t trust this form of SSL because it’s credibility is limited to the web verifying itself. The lack of that additional verification causes security alerts to pop up on pages. As a result, the company risks customers losing reliability, at first glance. 

SSL Security Benefits

Search Engine Rankings

Since 2014, Google declared HTTPS as a ranking signal in search results. Their reasoning is rooted in making a safer internet. The rule works in favor for organizations too: more visibility means more traffic which means more potential sales. Google can penalize your website in the search rankings if it isn’t secure

Please note that while SSL security helps with SEO, it wouldn’t drastically boost search rankings. There are other ways to optimize your website, such as content creation and link building.

Visual Indicators

In conjunction with the search engine ranking, SSL certificates also come with visual indicators that the website is trustworthy.

Web browser applications — Google, Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari — are very communicative to users about security protection. While subtle, there are immediate cues to a reliable and trustworthy website. In 2018, the website application Chrome 68 added an automated alert text in the browsing tab for “not secure” websites.

Additionally, at the very beginning of most links, it starts with the abbreviation “http” or “https.” The extra “s” in “https” at the end stands Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure. In less technical terms, websites with the “https” mean user to website information exchange will be encrypted. 

Other visual signs included a color-coded browsing bar and or little icons. If it’s green, it’s secured and it’s red, the site is not secured. 

For the icons, they usually come in forms of padlocks. If users click on the padlock, it commonly displays whether or not the website’s certificate is valid, along with the amount of cookies. For organizations using a more advanced SSL certificate, there will be additional information attached. 

SSL certificates

Safety 

At their core, SSL certificates provide safety to consumers. In this context, most credible websites use some form of these security certificates as the standard. Security validation is fundamental for any website

Customers’ information would be more protected with an established encryption system. Shoppers are more likely to continue browsing a website if their basic consumer safety concern is met. Even with great content, quality products, and a well-thought web design, the costs of losing prospects can outweigh any initial security costs.

With the decreased chances of fraudulent attacks or hackers, there’s arguably less liability at risk. Some SSL providers even offer insurances with the certificates. While warranties vary, it can guarantee that the provider will handle any unforeseen security or data breaches.

Authentication 

A website’s legitimacy is strengthened by having an SSL certificate beyond just showing a padlock on its URL. After all, unsecured websites are associated with being sketchy or a scam. 

Security certificates, regardless of validation level, imply to the general public that the organization went through efforts to seal their web identities. This idea empowers new or smaller businesses, such as ecommerce websites, to have a dependable online image. It’s very important for ecommerce sites to be as secure as possible

Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard

Also abbreviated as PCI DSS, it requires companies that utilize financial transmission to have a security document installed. As previously mentioned, the SSL ones facilities the necessary protection over customer payment exchanges. 

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