While browsing the web, you have likely noticed the padlock icon in your browser's address bar. Alternatively, you may have encountered error messages that prevent you from accessing certain web pages due to an insecure connection.
These situations occur when the website you are trying to visit does not have an SSL certificate. But what exactly are SSL certificates, and why are they important?
In this blog post, our goal is to simplify the SSL protocol by unraveling key concepts and highlighting points you may not be familiar with:
- What is an SSL Certificate?
- SSL certificates are required for your website, but why?
- Is SSL the same as HTTPS?
- I heard TLS is better than SSL, is that true?
- Which SSL type is right for you?
- Should I choose a free or paid SSL certificate?
- How do I get an SSL certificate?
- SSL certificate installed, but HTTP still accessible
1. What is an SSL Certificate?
SSL, also known as Secure Sockets Layer, is an encryption protocol used to secure Internet traffic between users and web servers.
Think of SSL as a sealed envelope for your online communications. Just as you seal an envelope to maintain the privacy and security of its contents during transit, an SSL certificate functions as a digital seal for your website, affirming your identity.
It establishes a secure connection between your website and your visitors' browsers, encrypting the information transmitted within that connection. This encryption acts as a lock on the envelope, guaranteeing that sensitive data such as passwords, credit card details, or personal information cannot be read or tampered with.
In essence, an SSL certificate serves as a virtual envelope seal, providing an additional layer of protection for both you and your website visitors.
2. SSL certificates are required for your website, but why?
SSL is designed to encrypt data using public-private key pairs and establish a secure connection between the user's device and the website. This prevents potential eavesdropping or tampering.
Additionally, it verifies the authenticity of the visited website and confirms ownership by the correct person or organization. This prevents hackers from creating counterfeit versions of websites or tricking users into revealing personal information.
Furthermore, an SSL certificate is necessary to enable HTTPS on a website, ensuring the privacy of visitor data. As you may be aware, most web browsers explicitly label HTTP sites as "not secure." Therefore, users are encouraged to use HTTPS on websites that have an SSL certificate. As a bonus, search engines rank you higher for having an SSL certificate.
3. Is SSL the same as HTTPS?
When it comes to SSL and HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure), they are related but not the same!
SSL refers to the cryptographic protocol used to secure communication between a client and a server. It involves the use of digital certificates to authenticate and encrypt data transmitted over a network.
On the other hand, HTTPS is an extension of the standard HTTP protocol that utilizes SSL/TLS to establish a secure connection.
HTTPS combines the encryption provided by SSL/TLS with the familiar HTTP protocol, ensuring that data transmitted between a user's web browser and a website remains confidential and protected from eavesdropping or tampering.
To put it simply, HTTPS is a secure version of the HTTP protocol that utilizes SSL/TLS encryption for transmitting data securely.
4. I heard TLS is better than SSL, is that true?
It is important to note that the terms SSL and TLS (Transport Layer Security) are often used interchangeably due to the widespread recognition of SSL.
In fact, TLS was developed as an update to SSL by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) in 1999, and the change in name from SSL to TLS was primarily to signify the transfer of ownership from Netscape to the IETF.
TLS has undergone enhancements and improvements over SSL. It has addressed vulnerabilities and incorporated stronger cryptographic algorithms to provide enhanced security and protection for network communications. Therefore, it is accurate to say that TLS is generally considered superior to SSL.
5. Which SSL type is right for you?
SSL certificates offer various levels of security and validation tailored to different requirements. Here are six types of SSL certificates to help you make an informed decision:
- Domain Validated (DV) SSL: This type of certificate offers data encryption and verifies domain ownership. It is suitable for personal websites or blogs where only a basic level of security is required and data collection is not needed.
- Organization Validated (OV) SSL: With OV SSL certificates, the issuing Certificate Authority (CA) verifies both domain ownership and the organization's details. This provides a high level of trust and is ideal for small businesses or organizations that handle sensitive customer data.
- Extended Validation (EV) SSL: EV SSL offers the highest level of trust and security. The Certificate Authority (CA) conducts a thorough verification process, which includes legal and physical checks, to validate the organization's identity. EV SSL certificates are commonly used by ecommerce websites and financial institutions.
- Wildcard SSL: A Wildcard SSL certificate secures a main domain and an unlimited number of its subdomains. It provides convenience and cost-effectiveness for websites with multiple subdomains.
- Multi-Domain SSL (MDC SSL): This certificate allows you to secure multiple domains and subdomains with a single SSL certificate. It is suitable for businesses or individuals managing multiple websites or online services.
- Unified Communications Certificate (UCC): UCC SSL certificates are designed specifically for Microsoft Exchange and Microsoft Office Communications servers. They secure multiple domains and subdomains associated with these platforms.
The right SSL certificate can significantly enhance your website's security, foster trust among your visitors, and protect sensitive information exchanged between your server and your users.
6. Should I choose a free or paid SSL certificate?
To answer this question, you should first identify the type of website you wish to secure with an SSL certificate. Are you looking for a certificate for your personal website, a small business, an organization, or an ecommerce website?
Secondly, consider whether you need warranty coverage in the event that certificate weaknesses lead to data breaches or security incidents. Additionally, determine if customer support is important to you in case of security or installation problems.
In fact, the decision to choose between a free or paid SSL certificate should be based on the level of security, trust, warranty, and support required for your website.
Take a look at the pros and cons of free SSL certificates to decide if they are the right choice for your site.
Pros of free SSL certificate:
- Simple installation
- Domain ownership verification
- A great choice for personal blogs or website
Cons of a free SSL certificate:
- Does not provide a high level of trust
- Offers minimal validation
- Lack of warranty protection
- Limited customer service
- Not suitable for business or ecommerce stores
Although free SSL certificates can be an ideal choice for personal blogs or small websites, they are not recommended for business and ecommerce stores where sensitive data is transmitted.
Paid SSL certificates, unlike free ones, provide additional security and financial protection.
The SSL warranty serves as a guarantee from the certificate authority (CA) to the certificate holder, promising compensation in the event of a breach or misissuance that directly results from a flaw in the SSL certificate.
Our SSL certificate warranty ranges from $10K to $1.75M, depending on the type and level of the certificate. The certificate holder can receive financial compensation up to the specified warranty amount, helping to mitigate any potential losses or damages incurred due to SSL certificate-related issues.
7. How do I get an SSL certificate?
Most hosting services, like us at Earth Girl Hosting, offer free built-in SSL certificates with the option to purchase paid SSL certificates. However, if your hosting service does not provide an SSL certificate, you may still be able to add one manually to your cPanel via Tools > Security > SSL/TLS. Alternatively, if you are a WordPress user, you may be able to install a free SSL certificate using WordPress plugins like Really Simple SSL. A one click SSL WordPress plugin helps convert all your HTTP links to HTTPS.
However, for business and ecommerce stores looking to secure their connections, Earth Girl Hosting offers a wide range of paid SSL certificates from trusted brands such as RapidSSL, GeoTrust, and DigiCert. You can directly purchase these certificates from the following link:
On the provided link, you will find various SSL certificates, including basic domain validation, enhanced organization validation, and maximum protection with extended validation. To proceed:
- Select the SSL certificate that best aligns with your requirements and budget.
- Once you have made your choice, proceed with the purchase and follow the instructions provided by the provider to complete the validation process. Note: This typically involves verifying your domain ownership and providing necessary documentation for higher validation levels.
- After the validation process is complete, the SSL certificate will be issued and can be installed on your website's server.
At Earth Gril Hosting, if you are hosted with us, SSL certificates that are purchased directly from us are automatically installed by our system. No need for manual installation!
8. SSL certificate installed, but HTTP still accessible
Once you have enabled an SSL certificate on your website, you need to make sure visitors access your site's HTTPS version. If the HTTP website is still accessible despite the SSL certificate being enabled, implementing redirection from HTTP to HTTPS is the solution to resolve this issue.
To permanently redirect from HTTP to HTTPS in cPanel, follow these steps:
- Log in to your cPanel account and navigate to the Domains section.
- Locate and click on the Redirects link.
- Choose the appropriate redirection type, usually Permanent (301) for a permanent redirection.
- Select the domain you want to redirect from the drop-down menu.
- In the Redirects To field, enter your website's HTTPS URL (e.g., https://example.com).
- Ensure that the “Redirect with or without www” option is selected.
- Click on the Add button to save the redirect rule.
By following these steps, you can successfully redirect all HTTP traffic to the secure HTTPS version of your website.
In this blog post, we have covered the basics of SSL certificates. Here's a quick recap:
- SSL certificates encrypt and secure communication between users and web servers.
- They verify the authenticity of websites and enable HTTPS for secure browsing.
- SSL and HTTPS are related, but HTTPS is the secure version of HTTP.
- TLS is an updated version of SSL and is considered more secure, but both terms are used interchangeably.
- Different types of SSL certificates cater to various security needs.
- Free certificates are suitable for personal blogs, while paid certificates offer more security and support for ecommerce stores and businesses.
By choosing the right SSL certificate, your website can become an impregnable fortress of trust, where visitors can explore, transact, and connect with peace of mind.