SSL stands for Secure Socket Layer. It is actually a cryptographic protocol, that helps you to give secure communications over the internet. In simple terms, this protocol ensures an encrypted link between a web server and a browser.
This link takes care that all the data sent between a web server and browser remains private. Netscape is the developer behind this protocol. However, to make an SSL connection, this protocol ensures that the server should have a digital certificate installed.
A digital certificate is nothing but an electronic file, issued by a third party, and verifies the identity of the web server and its public key. This certificate is like a gateway, with authenticate before the SSL connection is being established.
While sending information over the internet data is transferred from user to website (final destination server). If the data transfer is not encrypted with an SSL certificate, any hackers (third party) can read the information. Such as your usernames, passwords, Credit card numbers, and any other sensitive pieces of information.
The main reason to use SSL is to protect your sensitive information sent through the internet. By doing so, only the intended server or user can understand it.
It works by making a pair of keys called the public key and private key. The public key is visible to everyone, whereas the private key remains secret and only to you and the server. The public key and private key are part of encryption that encodes the information passed.
One can encrypt the message using the public key and decrypt the message using the private key. It makes sure that we cannot break the message without the key pairs.
How SSL certificate works?
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For example, when I type https://google.com here it is what happen:
- When a browser requests a secured website (HTTPS), from a Google web server.
- Google server sends its public key with an SSL certificate to the user’s browser (This certificate is digitally signed by a third party known as Certificate Authority or CA).
- Once the browser gets the digital certificate, it will verify the issuer’s digital signature (checks whether it is valid or not).
- Once the digital signature is verified, a green padlock icon will appear near to address bar to denote it is trusted (it simply indicates the public key belongs to the webserver).
- Now the browser creates one symmetric key (shared key) and the browser shares one symmetric key with a web server and keeps another one.
- However, the browser doesn’t want to send the symmetric key in plain text. So it uses the webserver public key to encrypt the symmetric key and sends it back to the webserver.
- After receiving the encrypted symmetric key at the webserver end, it uses its private key to decrypt it. Now webs server gets the browsers symmetric key (shared key).
- From now onwards any communication between a browser and the webserver is encrypted/decrypted using a symmetric key (shared key).
Note 1: Asymmetric key algorithm (public and private keys) which is used to verify the identity of the web server and its public key.
Note 2: Symmetric Key Algorithm (shared key) After establishing a connection between the browser and the web server, all traffic between them is encrypted and decrypted using a shared key.
How to check for an SSL connection?
It is very easy to find a secure connection. Just by looking at any URL, you can find whether this website is protected with an SSL certificate or not. If the URL starts with ‘https://’, then it is obvious to say that this website is protected with an SSL certificate and is secured.
Actually, a standard website address starts with HTTP. but whereas, SSL protected website starts with HTTPS. The last letter ‘s’ indicated that it is secured. If a company has HTTPS, then click on the padlock icon, to know more information about the owner of the SSL certificate.
By checking this, you will be able to know that you are visiting the website which you want to or it is been redirected to some other website. An SSL certificate will have the following information:
- Domain name
- Company name
- Address, state, and country
- It also contains the SSL certificate expiration due date
- Also about the Certification Authority who is responsible for the issuance of the certificate.
How SSL is used in today’s world?
- To secure your online credit card transactions
- In order to secure webmail and applications like Outlook, office communications server, and exchange
- To secure the hosting control panel logins and activity like cPanel, parallels etc
- To secure network logins and other network traffic with SSL VPNs such as VPN access servers or applications like Citrix access gateway.
- In order to have a secure connection between an email client and an email server
- In order to secure the transfer of a file over HTTPS and FTPS services such as website owners updating new pages to their websites or transferring a large file
It stands for Transport Layer Security. TLS is just the updated version of SSL. But we still refer to it as SSL because it is the commonly used term. TLS performs the same as SSL. when you purchase SSL from Symantec, then it states that you are actually by TLS which is up to date. It has features such as data integrity, data authentication, and privacy.
The HTTPS is HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure. HTTPS appears at the beginning of your URL. If your website is secured with an SSL certificate, then you will find HTTPS or else it would just be HTTP which not safe for your website.
If you click the padlock, which is near HTTPS, you will get information about the owner of the SSL certificate, its expiration date etc.
Fix Insecure Mixed Content on WordPress Easily with these plugins
WordPress plugins to fix insecure mixed content as follows:
- Really Simple SSL: It is important to purchase the SSL certificate first. Then this plugin helps you to install it on all your WordPress content. There are premium versions, that helps you to install across all your sites and checks there is no warning on your website.
- Insecure content fixer: Once you have purchased and installed an SSL certificate, don’t think your job is done. In case if your website is built with code references to ‘HTTP, such as your image file, then you will get a warning when trying to load that securely. So these plugins help to find and fix the problem and give the information securely to the visitors.
- WP force SSL: Once you installed the SSL certificate and fixing all the errors. Now you have to make sure that all the traffic sees the secure version of your site. This plugin will make sure that all the traffic visits your website to HTTPS in order to load securely. Before using this plugin, try installing the insecure content fixer plugin first and check if there are any warnings. Then once fixed go for the WP force SSL plugin.
Advantages of SSL:
- First and foremost is the establish a secure connection between user and server. It ensures that the data send online is read-only by the intended person.
- It improves customers trust. The unauthorized third parties cannot access the data
- It guards against phishing attacks
- SSL gives you a better Google search engine ranking
- It encrypts users sensitive and confidential information
- SSL increases your return on investment with potential conversations
- It gives a safer experience for the users
Three main steps to implement SSL:
- Purchase an SSL certificate issued by a trusted Certificate Authority
- Activate and then install the SSL certificate
- Finally, convert your whole website to HTTPS.
It is important to protect users personal information. In order to have a secured website, an SSL certificate is a must. It encrypts all transmitted data over the network. By using HTTPS, Google and other popular search engines give a better SEO ranking for your website.
This SSL certificate has three types: Extended Validation(EV) certificates and Organization Validated(OV) certificates, and Domain Validated(DV) certificates.
Note: It is not totally secured even if a website contains an SSL certificate. Because anyone including hackers can get an SSL certificate for their website to launch products or services. Just go for a reputed website with an SSL certificate in order to have safe and secured communication.
Prabhu Ganesan provides his web development and WordPress services independently. He is the founder of WPBlogX. He is very much involved in WordPress as it becomes second nature for him. You can get in touch with him by visiting his website – WPBlogX.com and you can also find him on Twitter @gprabhucbe.