An SSL certificate is a digital credential that authenticates the identity of a website and enables an encrypted connection. The acronym SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer. It is a security protocol that creates an encrypted link between a web server and a browser. Typically SSL is used to protect credit card transactions, data transfers, and logins.

Since its inception about 25 years ago, there have been several versions of the SSL protocol, which at some point had security problems. For this reason, a renewed version was launched with a new name: TLS (Transport Layer Security), which is in use today although the old name is maintained. In practice, people talk mainly about SSL certificates to refer to the protection of the website and the server through encryption technology.

An SSL certificate helps protect information such as login credentials, credit card transactions or bank account information, personal information (such as full name, address, date of birth, or phone number), legal documents and contracts

What information does an SSL Certificate contain?

SSL certificates include:

  • The domain name for which the certificate was issued
  • To which person, organization, or device it was delegated
  • Which Certification Authority issued it
  • The digital signature of the Certification Authority
  • Associated subdomains
  • Certificate issuance date
  • Certificate expiration date
  • The public key (the private key is kept a secret)

How to know if a website has an SSL Certificate

An SSL certificate keeps Internet connections secure and prevents cybercriminals from reading or modifying information transferred between two systems.  They are important for people who own a website but also for those who surf the Internet. Generally speaking, when you see a lock icon next to the URL in the address bar, it means that there is an SSL certificate that protects the website you are on. 

Another indicator that we are browsing a secure website is that the acronym HTTPS (which stands for HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure) must appear in the URL. Without an SSL certificate, only the letters HTTP will appear, that is, without the S for “secure”.

Most browsers like Google or Yahoo classify HTTP sites, those without SSL certificates, as “not safe”. For users, this is a clear sign that the site may not be trustworthy, incentivizing companies that have not done so to migrate to the HTTPS protocol.

If you want to check if a website is safe or the status of your website, you can turn to web tools to quickly confirm it. You can also look for the logo of one of the certifying entities on the website, or you can double-click on the lock icon that appears before de URL in your browser.

How to obtain an SSL certificate?

SSL certificates must be provided by a trusted Certificate Authority. These institutions play a critical role in how the Internet works and how transparent and trustworthy interactions are ensured online, which is why they issue millions of SSL certificates each year.

The cost of an SSL certificate can range from a free certificate to one that costs hundreds of dollars, depending on the level of security you require. Some of the most prominent Certification Authorities are Thawte, GeoTrust, Verisign  and Digicert.