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What is SSL encryption?

When you connect to a website from your browser, do you pay attention to the little padlock to the left of the domain name? That’s an indication that the website you’re visiting has been certified as legitimate by a CA, or Certification Authority. This is known as TLS encryption, and it’s been an integral part of online communications since the 1990s.

Charles Whitmore

Charles Whitmore

Dec 04, 2021 · 4 min read

What is SSL encryption?

What is Secure Sockets Layer encryption?

Originally created in 1995 by software designers Netscape, Secure Sockets Layer encryption is a way to create a protected link between a website and a user’s browser. It was often used for authentication and proving integrity when it came to online communication.

TLS vs SSL

SSL went through three versions before a new developer, IETF, created the successor that is still widely used today: Transport Layer Security, or TLS, in 1999. There was so little difference between the last iteration of SSL and the newer TLS encryption that the terms were often confused and used interchangeably — the practice continues to this day. When looking to purchase certification for a website, TLS services will often be advertised as the technically obsolete SSL. A true SSL meaning would refer to quite an out of date piece of software.

Ultimately, the question of SSL or TLS doesn’t need to be asked — SSL 3.0 dropped out of popular use in the late 90s, with security experts widely regarding it as vulnerable. TLS, and all it’s later versions, has been the standard for most websites for the past 20 years.

What is SSL/TLS certification?

Look at the domain name bar at the top of your browser. Do you see the padlock to the left of the name? That is an indication that the website has been certified as legitimate by a Certification Authority. Try it out now, check our VPN website validation.

Protecting a website with SSL/TLS encryption proves to a customer that the business is taking measures to look after their users’ data.

The reasons for obtaining SSL/TLS certification can vary widely. There are different versions of SSL certificates to choose from, as well as different levels of validation. It sounds confusing at first, so let’s break it down.

Types of SSL certification and validation

SSL/TLS certifications

Single Domain: SSL certification only covers one domain name.

Wildcard: This type covers one domain and every subdomain under the name. For example, if a business wanted to cover their website and blog, they would choose to certify www.business.com and blog.business.com.

Multidomain: The certification that covers a selection of different domain names, not necessarily similar sounding either.

SSL/TLS validation levels

Domain Validation: The cheapest level of validation you can buy from a CA. A lot of smaller website owners will do this just as a means to control the domain name and prove that the site is legitimate. This cheap SSL validation is the most commonly used.

Organization Validation: The next level of validation takes slightly longer to achieve, with validation usually taking up to 2 days to issue. Organization validation requires a human element, hence the longer waiting time. Smaller businesses or blogs will typically go for this level. The correct paperwork proving that the business/organization is legitimate will need to be provided to the CA.

Extended Validation: Can sometimes take up to a week, this is the top-tier level of validation available. It’s so prestigious that not all CA can provide extended validation services. The CA will do extensive research and background checks on the organization to prove ownership.

The CA essentially opens up an investigation into the website’s owners and origins. This type of validation is normally used by companies and businesses that carry out financial transactions. If a website has this level of validation, it’s a good sign you can trust their services.

How do you get SSL/TLS certification?

Once you’ve decided what kind of validation and certification you want to settle on, it’s time to do your research. There are plenty of CA available, and you need to find the right one suitable for your site.

Take into account what you need the certification for. Will you be having customers committing to financial transactions on your website? It’s your duty to make users feel safe and trust your site, therefore it’s probably best to pay out for extended validation.

Should I use a VPN with SSL/TLS?

SSL/TLS encryption is the ‘S’ in HTTPS. HTTPS will encrypt all activity and data exchanged between a browser and a website. What is VPN encryption when compared to SSL encryption? A VPN will cover the few security snags found in HTTPS. Where HTTPS will only protect your website communications, a VPN like NordVPN can encrypt all activity coming out of your device.

For those who prioritize their online security, adding a VPN to your digital protection is a wise move. You’ll even have the option of using obfuscated servers, which hide the fact that you’re using a VPN at all. NordVPN is available on all major platforms, providing next-level security no matter where you are. Double up your protection and keep the cybercriminals at bay.

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