What is an SSL certificate and how does it work?

What is an SSL?

Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) is a standard technology used to establish an encrypted link between a serve and a client; a web server and a browser or a mail server and a mail client. SSL allows sensitive details like credit card numbers, login credentials etc. to be transmitted securely.

Typically, information sent amongst programs and web servers is sent in plain content—leaving you susceptible to prying.  In case, the attacker is able to intercept the information being sent between a browser and a web server, they can see and utilize that data.  All the more particularly, SSL is a security protocol that determines the variables of the encryption for both the link as well as the information being transferred.

All browsers have the capability to interact with secured web servers using the SSL protocol. However, the browser and the server need what is called an SSL Certificate to be able to establish a secure connection.

What is an SSL certificate?

SSL Certificates are small data files that digitally bind a cryptographic key to an organization’s details. When installed on a web server, it activates the padlock and the https protocol (over port 443) and allows secure connections from a web server to a browser. In simple words, they are digital passports that provide authentication to protect the confidentiality and integrity of website communication with browsers.

SSL certificates have a key pair: a public and a private key. These keys work together to create an encrypted connection. The certificate also includes the “subject,” which is the identity of the certificate/website owner.

how ssl works

Why is SSL important?

Websites are hacked due to various reasons. Some of the broad areas are as follows:

  1. OS version software vulnerabilities.
  2. Web server software and settings vulnerabilities.
  3. Database server software and settings vulnerabilities.
  4. Web application programming vulnerabilities.
  5. File permission vulnerabilities.
  6. Network intrusion vulnerabilities.
  7. Firewall configuration vulnerabilities.


The above stated hacking reasons make it extremely important to implement SSL encryption. Apart from being a security requirement, SSL encryption has the following benefits:-

  • Better SEO ranking- SSL and HTTPS are not only valuable to security, but they’re also going to be helpful when it comes to SEO, ecommerce, and visual notifications about the security of a page in Google Chrome. The Google Security Team announced that the 56th version of Google Chrome will visually alert users when they’re not on a secure website with an SSL certificate.
  • Increased trust with customers- web browsers give visual cues, such as a lock icon or a green bar, to make sure visitors know when their connection is secured. This means that they will trust your website more when they see these cues and will be more likely to buy from you. SSL providers will also give you a trust seal that instills more trust in your customers.
  • Payment Card Industry (PCI) standards- To accept credit card information on your website, you must pass certain audits that show that you are complying with the Payment Card Industry (PCI) standards. One of the requirements of PCI is properly using an SSL Certificate.

How to get an SSL Certificate?

To get a certificate, one has to create a Certificate Signing Request (CSR) on your server. This process creates a private key and public key on the server. The CSR data file is then sent to the SSL Certificate issuer (called a Certificate Authority or CA) along with the public key. The CA uses the CSR data file to generate a data structure to match the private key without conceding the key itself. The CA never sees the private key.

Once you receive the SSL certificate, you may install it on your server. You can also install an intermediate certificate that establishes the credibility of the SSL Certificate by tying it to the CA’s root certificate (a root certificate is a public key certificate that identifies a root certificate authority).


What is the approximate SSL Certificate price?

It depends on the plan you choose. These plans are usually year-long, wherein you get a set of features like domain validation, number of sub-domains, warranty level etc. To put things in perspective, the SSL Certificate price of the most basic plan on BigRock is Rs.1,425/year in which you get the following features:

  • Domain Validation
  • 1 Domain
  • Free additional server licenses
  • Issued within 2 days
  • $10,000 warranty level

SSL Certificates has to be issued from a trusted Certificate Authority’s Root Certificate, and preferably by a 2048 bit Certificate that is widely distributed. The Root Certificate must be present on the end user’s machine so that the Certificate is trusted. If it is not trusted, the browser will present an untrusted error messages to the end user. In the case of e-commerce, such error messages result in immediate lack of confidence in the website and organizations risk losing confidence and business from the majority of consumers.

Sunder is a techie guy who loves to write about anything that is directly or remotely connected with technology. From hardcore tech stories to the overall influence of technology in life, Sunder is passionate about all things internet. When he is not surfing the internet, he is busy grooving on his favorite beats.