What is an SSL Certificate?

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If you’re running a business website then chances are you’ve come across the idea of getting an SSL certificate. You may even already have one installed on your website. But do you actually know what an SSL certificate does and how it protects you and your visitors?

An SSL (Secure Socket Layer) certificate provides security for online communications, specifically those between your visitors and your website. It allows the visitor to make a secure connection with the server to make sure that no third party can intercept the information that’s being transferred, which is what makes it so important for business websites to have. Without it, hackers could easily get credit card information that a customer would be sending to you to purchase products or services, login information for a bank account, or any other information they may want.

How does it work? When a person tries to connect to a website with an SSL certificate there is what’s called an “SSL handshake” that happens right at the beginning of the connection. The person’s browser will request that the server send the SSL certificate key, which is used to encrypt and decrypt the data that is being transferred. The browser will verify that the key is valid and trusted. After this takes place all of the data that is sent between the browser and the server is encrypted, and only the browser and the computer have the ability to decrypt it using the key that was sent.

Think of it as a code that you and a friend may have had as kids. You write what you want your friend to know in that code, and only your friend knows how to read it because he understands that code. Nobody else who tries to intercept the note will be able to read it because they don’t know what the code is.