In computer security, SSL certificates are a method of encrypting data transmitted between a server and a user’s browser in order to authenticate that data. In cryptography, an SSL certificate, also called an SSL identity certificate or a digital signature certificate, is a record that proves the legal ownership of a particular private key. Certificate systems were first put into place with SSLv3, an upgraded version of SSL that uses elliptical digital keys rather than the traditional Diffie-Krueger digital key system. Modern SSL certificates use newer, algorithm-based digital signatures that are more resistant to hacking than older signature methods.
The advantage of SSL certificates is that they provide advanced, tamper-resistant encryption. Unlike traditional SSL, an SSL key must be generated by hand and delivered to the server before it can be used for encryption. This increases the amount of trust that users have in the system, which makes it harder for a hacker to obtain secret information. An SSL key used for encryption additionally requires the appropriate private key to unlock the code. This process, called ECDH (Eminence Enhanced Digest), is one of the major advantages of SSL certificates.
The other advantage of SSL certificates is that they combine a high degree of authentication into the encryption process. Unlike most form of digital signatures, the digital key provided by SSL certificates combines a digital signature with encryption in a single transaction. This is one of the reasons why SSL certificates are commonly referred to as ‘public key infrastructure’ or ‘PKI.’ Digital certificates provide advanced authentication features beyond the usual password-based authentication that is found in websites.
As an example of how SSL certificates work, consider a site with free email services. When a visitor requests an email address, the webmaster creates a ‘public key’ – a string of numbers and letters that signifies the owner of the email address. A visitor can then verify that the key belongs to the intended recipient by authenticating his identity through another means, such as an online log-in. If a hacker obtains the public key, he can then use that information to access the private key stored within the site’s database. Without the encryption of the SSL certificate, the hacker is able to read the email message before making any attempt to access the private key data.
SSL certificates are often used as a means of identifying specific information within websites. For example, an organization may issue SSL certificates that enable website visitors to determine whether they are dealing with a legitimate company or not. The organization may also issue subordinate certificates that allow people to look up particular customer information within its databases. In order to make it very hard for would-be scammers to get any private information, these websites make it mandatory for the people seeking the information to provide their true identity through an authentic, valid contact form on the website. This way, ssl encryption makes it impossible for hackers to access any sensitive personal information about a client.
Another common use of SSL certificates is in websites that store sensitive information about consumers. Some companies store credit card numbers or other sensitive information in sensitive locations, making it too risky to provide those details over the internet. If a person wants to send an email to his friend, he should ensure that the link he is using is not using an insecure socket layer (SSL) to transmit the data, otherwise he could be putting his friend at risk.