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An SSL certificate is a digital certificate that authenticates a website’s identity and enables an encrypted connection. SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer, a security protocol that creates an encrypted link between a web server and a web browser.
SSL works by ensuring that any data transferred between users and websites, or between two systems, remains impossible to read. It uses encryption algorithms to scramble data in transit, which prevents hackers from reading it as it is sent over the connection. This data includes potentially sensitive information such as names, addresses, credit card numbers, or other financial details.
Websites need SSL certificates to keep user data secure, verify ownership of the website, prevent attackers from creating a fake version of the site, and convey trust to users.
If a website is asking users to sign in, enter personal details such as their credit card numbers, or view confidential information such as health benefits or financial information, then it is essential to keep the data confidential. SSL certificates help keep online interactions private and assure users that the website is authentic and safe to share private information with.
There are different types of SSL certificates with different validation levels. The six main types are:
SSL certificates can be obtained directly from a Certificate Authority (CA). Certificate Authorities – sometimes also referred to as Certification Authorities – issue millions of SSL certificates each year. They play a critical role in how the internet operates and how transparent, trusted interactions can occur online.
The easiest way to see if a site has an SSL certificate is by looking at the address bar in your browser: