Marina Nifontova

Editor

What is an SSL certificate and why do we need it

ISPSystem

This article will be useful if you want to understand what an SSL certificate is and if you need to buy one.

A bit of history: SSL certificate for HTTPS

To explain how an SSL certificate works and what it does, let us briefly go back to the recent past of web technologies.

A while ago, to enable the website and the user's computer to exchange data, the HTTP protocol - a special set of rules for "communication" among servers - was created. Information is transmitted via HTTP protocol in unencrypted form. This can be insecure when users enter their data on the website, which intruders should not be able to get their hands on. For example, a customer in an online store makes a purchase and enters a bankcard number. If the website uses HTTP, an unauthorized person can intercept the data and use it.

To solve the problem, the new HTTPS protocol was developed. It now included the SSL cryptographic technology. Thanks to it, all data transmitted is encrypted, and even if an intruder intercepts it, he will not be able to use it, because it will be nothing but a set of gibberish.

Why do we need an SSL certificate?

An SSL certificate is necessary for users to be sure that the encryption is reliable. The certification centers that issue the certificates are responsible for compliance with the technology. They pledge that no one will hack the messages between the website and the user's computer.

Another protection offered by an SSL certificate is confirmation of the authenticity of the website. The certification center checks all incoming certificate issue requests. This can be an automatic check that the customer has access to the domain, or a manual check of the organization up to a phone call to the company. The type of verification affects the cost of the certificate and increases the value of its reliability. You can learn more about the types of verification on the SSL certificates page.

Technically, nothing prevents you from issuing an SSL certificate on your own, without the need for certification centers or verification. Such certificates are called self-signed or self-published. They also work and provide encryption. However, this is not the best solution: the fact is that self-signed certificates are not trusted by web browsers.

When a visitor opens the website, the browser checks the SSL certificate to see what certification center issued it, and whether the validity period is expired. If all is well, the visitor sees a closed lock in the address bar.

This is what the address bar looks like in Google Chrome if the SSL certificate on the website is OK
This is what the address bar looks like in Google Chrome if the SSL certificate on the website is OK

If the certificate is self-signed, issued by an unreliable organization, expired or not installed, the browser will show an alarm message and may even deny the user access to the website. In addition, search engines downgrade websites with unreliable certificates.

We recommend installing an SSL certificate for any project, even small personal blogs. Yes, HTTPS encryption is not necessary where visitors only read content and do not enter data. However, with an SSL certificate, the website will improve its SEO standing, and visitors will not be confused by warnings from the security system.

In addition, installing a simple SSL certificate from a trusted certification center is not that expensive and only takes a couple of minutes. If you manage your websites through ISPmanager, it is even easier — free SSL certificates can be installed on the website automatically and without restrictions.

For websites where users enter passwords, make purchases, or leave their personal data, a secure SSL certificate is mandatory. All types of certificates are available to choose from on our website.