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SSL stands for "Secure Sockets Layer". It is a protocol that establishes an encrypted and authenticated connection between a web browser and a web server. The purpose of this certificate is to keep all data exchanged between the web browser and the server secure and private. This protection makes it difficult for external parties to extract meaningful information from incoming traffic. Whenever a site requests a user's personal information, such as payment information or email address, it must have an SSL certificate.
For example, if an e-commerce site uses HTTP connection instead of HTTPS, this means that the browser will send all the information to the server in plain text. In such a case, if anyone is monitoring your web traffic, they can see and easily steal this information. Whereas, if your website has a valid SSL certificate, this will keep your website traffic encrypted. After installing an SSL certificate, your website displays the padlock sign and the URL of the page is preceded by the letters “https://”.
But despite all these realities, many webmasters still do not have a complete understanding of how SSL works and why it is important.
Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) is an extension of Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP). It is used to securely transfer data over a network. In HTTPS, communication is encrypted using the TLS method.
HTTPS ensures the authentication of the website being accessed, maintaining the confidentiality and integrity of the exchanged data. It also protects transmitted data from attacks and theft. HTTPS encrypts the entire HTTP protocol, including query parameters, headers, and cookies for the requested URL.
All attackers can see are the website address and port numbers, which are part of the TCP/IP protocols and are not protected by HTTPS. This means that an attacker can guess the IP address, port number, amount of data transferred, and session duration of a web server you are communicating with.
Having an SSL certificate on your site indicates that your website is secure as encryption is applied against attacks. If you encrypt the site and the data transferred from the site with 128 or 256 bit encryption, malicious attempts to access your website cannot read this data. Even if there is a data breach and some of the data is compromised, this data makes it almost impossible to understand due to the level of encryption it contains. In this way, your visitors feel safe knowing that their data is in safe hands.
Google announced in 2014 that it would begin to include SSL and HTTPS as a factor in search rankings. Therefore, it is unlikely that a website will rise in Google rankings without a valid SSL certificate. Therefore, one of the first steps in a good search engine optimisation is to get a valid SSL certificate.
SSL encryption also applies to payment data. SSL is indispensable especially for e-commerce sites that provide online payment. When your customers submit their card details to your site, having HTTPS in your address bar indicates that you have encrypted and protected these details.
Beyond all these technical points, the biggest advantage of having an SSL certificate is to increase your customers' trust in you. For those who frequent the web, having the padlock icon next to your URL gives you some legitimacy. Some browsers, such as Chrome, indicate not secure for sites without SSL certificates. Having a valid SSL certificate is also very important in terms of not missing out on your potential customers.
Modern web browsers now limit functionality for sites that are not secure. Important features that improve the quality of the website now require HTTPS. Geolocation, push notifications and the service workers needed to run progressive web applications (PWAs) all require heightened security. This makes sense; data such as a user’s location is sensitive and can be used for nefarious purposes. ( Why use https? )
Standard SSL Certificates secure a fully qualified domain or subdomain. It will, however, not cover any other domain name. This means that when someone types in www.domain.com or domain.com into their address bar, it will take them to a secure website running over HTTPS.
Wildcard SSL Certificate covers one domain name and unlimited number of subdomains. A SSL/TLS Wildcard certificate should be considered an option when looking to secure a number of sub domains, such as 'secure.(domainname).com', 'www.(domainname).com', and 'mail.(domainname).com' with a single certificate. ( When should I request a SSL Wildcard Certificate? )
Multi-Domain SSL certificate secures multiple domains using the same certificate with the help of SAN extension. It is specifically designed to secure Microsoft Exchange and Office Communications environments.