What is SSL?

SSL (Secure Socket Layer) is a security layer that provides encryption to secure connections between a client and a server (commonly defined as two electronic systems interacting with each other). A client, in this case, is a browser, mobile app, or any other connecting body.

SSL’s primary function is to protect the information and communication between a client and a server. This communication mainly involves websites on HTTP, emails, and VoIP, and SSL ensures the encryption and decryption of messages transferred between these servers.
SSL to website security is like bread to butter because it eliminates any middle man or listener on a network. It also provides a secured communication path where clients can transmit information to and from a browser without interference.

How does SSL work?

Two encryption systems govern how SSL works. They are:

  1. Asymmetric Cryptography
  2. Symmetric Cryptography

Asymmetric cryptography is also called asymmetric encryption or public-key cryptography. In asymmetric cryptography, there are two pairs of keys: a public and a private one. They both participate in the encryption or decryption of data.
In asymmetric cryptography, one key is assigned to either party at the other end, the public key or a known key. The other key is encrypted and unknown to the parties. Data is signed with the private key and decrypted with a public key.

In symmetric cryptography, there is only one key available to both client and server. This key encrypts and decrypts data.

SSL uses both asymmetric and symmetric cryptography to transfer data securely.

Data transfer over SSL

Communication between a server and a client starts with a handshake. A handshake begins when the browser attempts to communicate with a website’s server. In SSL, a handshake is asymmetric cryptography.
During a handshake,

  • The browser verifies the server’s authenticity.
  • The browser and the server open a secure connection for communication
  • The browser and the server generate session keys

These processes are essential because it is at this stage that both parties acknowledge the identity they both claim. They also ensure that any third party does not alter messages sent over the connection.
During the actual data transfer, the client and server share one key to encrypt and decrypt the data. This process is now symmetric cryptography.

Is SSL Necessary?

Yes, SSL is necessary on every site. For business owners, digital marketers, any websites that look forward to getting a decent rank on Google.

Why is SSL Important?

1

A second layer of Security

Today, the internet is unforgiving of people who transfer information precariously—the web floods by scammers, spammers, malware, and viruses. Many people can attest to receiving scam emails or contacting a virus from an unfamiliar site.
Most of us are acutely aware of how dangerous our internet activities can be. A minor misstep can escalate into unimaginable consequences. We justify the effort we make to protect ourselves. We skip a suspicious page or a link and double-check URLs, but the truth is – that’s not enough to guarantee us total safety. We have just learned the bare minimum for maintaining personal security measures. Therefore, the sites we visit must take serious measures to protect us and guarantee our safety when browsing their domain.
A site owner cannot control what happens on the internet, but anything on their website is subject to constant improvement. Site managers can control sharing policies and what remains for public view. SSL is that double security mark – it ensures that website communications happen through secured connections. Any outsiders cannot view nor use internal data or communications. So if you are a site owner, make sure to buy an SSL certificate and ensure your users safety.

2

Prevention of Man-in-the-Middle Attack

A man-in-the-middle attack is a strategic cyberattack carried out by hackers to steal data. This attack happens when a hacker actively listens, eavesdrops, or positions himself to intercept legitimate information between client and server on an unsecured connection.
The hacker could also impersonate one of the parties and communicate to the other as though they were the actual impersonated party.
The mode of operation of a man-in-the-middle is to allow two legitimate parties to open an unsecured connection and then listen in. The hackers are usually passive players, and both the client and the server parties are unaware that they have an unwanted company tapping into their communication.
This malicious tactic aims to steal personal information like login details, credit cards information, or any other sensitive data.
The cybercriminals then use the stolen to leverage even more significant benefits from the user-owner. This attack could involve an illegal transfer of funds, hijacking social media accounts, or identity theft.
When SSL is installed on a site, communications are carried out on a more secure connection, making it hard for a man-in-the-middle to intercept any data. If the hacker can somehow intercept the data using sophisticated software, it will be useless since it needs decryption.
Both parties - client and server also verify each other’s identities, so a hacker cannot impersonate either of them.

3

Search Engine Optimization

Google and search rankings make SSL such an important topic today. Before, SSL was a specific requirement for ecommerce, banking, or government sites. It is a must for any shared personal and sensitive information: credit card details, contact addresses, or social security numbers.
To create a better user experience, Google has made it mandatory that all sites have an installed SSL certificate. In 2014, they also announced that they would include SSL encryption as one of the key ranking factors.
Google is particularly interested in making the internet a safe place for everyone. They want all sites to provide this for their users. SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is a strategy by digital marketers to boost their pages on the web.
Search engine optimization encompasses all the tools, strategies, and measures that take your web pages to the top of the pages after people enter their search terms. A business that wants to succeed should rank well on search engines.
Implementing SSL addition as a necessary accessory to rankings by Google also means that websites without this certificate should receive a ranking penalty. Google has resorted to preferentially indexing HTTPS versions of pages over their duplicate conterparts in the HTTP version. Google punishes sites without SSL and promotes those using it. In Google’s terms, this means that if two identical websites, one with SSL on and the other without, the one with the security certificate will enjoy a much better SEO boost over the other one.
A detailed post by Neil Patel, a seasoned SEO master, can tell you more about SEO rankings with SSL over HTTPS.

Unsecured Site Dialog

Sites without SSL installed will carry a bold label ‘Not Secure’ attached to them, so users immediately know that this is unsafe. In contrast, SSL-ready websites will have a ‘Secure Connection’ attached to them.

4

Trust and Confidence

Online users are the leading key players in marketing, and one way to get them to buy is to gain their trust and confidence. An unsecured site is already a let-down. How can you expect people to trust your online tool if you can’t even cover the default security requirements? People need to know that the business owner has their interest at heart. Part of this care includes making your website a safe space for everyone.
The internet is witnessing a rise in the number of fake websites. Users are not confident because they do not always know who is behind the URL that they browse. Web visitors end up sharing their sensitive information with fake websites pretending to be authentic. However, these counterfeits have ill motives - stealing from unsuspecting users. Installing an SSL certificate makes your users differentiate you from all the fake imitators out there.

5

Increased Conversion Rate

Conversion rate is the ratio between all web visitors and those who become paying customers. The trust factor plays a significant role here in how people perceive your site and if they want to provide sensitive information on that site.
If a site is not trustworthy and shows the bold ‘Not secure,’ the conversion rate drops automatically. Cautious buyers will not feel secure enough to settle their credit card or other sensitive information on such a site.

What is an SSL Certificate

SSL is practically a file that contains the public key for your website. It resides on the website’s server, and without it, connections are impossible to make.
SSL certificates are issued by CAs (Certificate Authority). A CA first verifies the identity and legitimacy of the website owner before issuing an SSL certificate.

How to know that you have installed AN SSL certificate

Every website with an SSL certificate has an “s” attached to the Hypertext transfer protocol abbreviation just before the URL. Instead of HTTP, you have HTTPS. S stands for secured.

http://www.codecoda.com       - unsafe

https://www.codecoda.com     - safe

At the top left corner of the address bar on the browser, where you usually enter the URL, you can also see Google’s warnings about the website’s security level

Conclusion

SSLs used to be a predominant need for sites with sensitive data. Today, it is a necessary feature for every website, preserving the integrity of any network communication. This security measure works to improve user experience and build trust with clients. Your website absolutely needs one of these to boost your SEO rating and gain the confidence of new coming customers.
SSL guarantees your identity, a hugely important verification for any eCommerce business. Online, it is easier to pretend to be someone else and cause damage and confusion. Your online visitors will trust your site more, regardless if you want to collect their personal information or not. Without an installed security certificate, even visiting non-commerce websites can potentially lead to compromising your personal information.

Like this article? Please rate it!

Author

Kris Terziev

Kris is the Head of Research and Development at CodeCoda and, as he himself says, is constantly seeking better methods of developing and implementing software solutions.
In his previous experience as a software engineer, he has experienced everything from plain assembly code through the optimization of the process of business and functional analysis and the development of Fintech Applications.
During his school years, he won several medals in international competitions in mathematics and computer science. Concerning his professional interests, he pays special attention to algorithms and software development methodologies.