What Is an SSL Certificate, And How Does It Work?

What Is an SSL Certificate, And How Does It Work?

You know that little padlock you see whenever you got a website? What does that mean exactly and how does that protect you and your data?

An SSL certificate is a digital certificate that verifies the identity of a website and allows secure communication. Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) is a security protocol that establishes a secure connection between a web server and a web browser.

SSL certificates must be installed on a company’s or organization’s website in order to safeguard online transactions and keep customer information private and secure. In a nutshell, SSL protects internet connections by preventing thieves from reading or altering data sent between two systems. SSL safeguards the website you’re visiting if you see a padlock icon next to the URL in the address bar.

Why is this needed?

If you are curious how attacks take place, on the server that hosts a website without ant protection, a hacker installs a small, undetectable listening application. That malware sits in the background waiting for a visitor to start typing information on the website. All that information being typed by you is begin capturing the data and sent it back to the hacker. However, when you visit a website that’s encrypted with SSL, your browser will form a connection with the webserver natural in the text, look at the SSL certificate, then bind your browser and the server.

How SSL Certificate Works

SSL protects data sent between users and websites, or between two systems, by making it almost impossible to read.

It scrambles data in transit using encryption methods, preventing hackers from accessing it as it travels over the network. So even is someone was running a man-in-the-middle attack where they would intercept your data, they wouldn’t be able to see the actual data such as usernames and passwords.

The work process works as follows:

  • A browser or server tries to connect to an SSL-secured website (i.e., a web server).
  • The web server is asked to identify itself by the browser or server.
  • In response, the web server delivers a copy of its SSL certificate to the browser or server.
  • The browser or server checks the SSL certificate to see if it is trusted. If it does, the web server receives a notification.
  • After that, the web server sends a digitally signed acknowledgment, which initiates an SSL encrypted session.
  • Encrypted data is transferred between the browser or server and the webserver.

An “SSL handshake” is a term used to describe this process. While it may appear to be a lengthy procedure, it is completed in milliseconds.

The term HTTPS (which stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) appears in the URL when an SSL certificate secures a website. Only the letters HTTP – i.e., without the S for Secure – will appear if you don’t have an SSL certificate. In the URL address bar, a padlock icon will also appear. Visitors to the website will feel more secure because of this.

You may view the information of an SSL certificate by clicking on the padlock symbol in the browser bar. SSL certificates typically include the following information:

  • The domain name for which the certificate was issued, as well as the person, organization, or device for whom it was issued.
  • The digital signature of the Certificate Authority.
  • Subdomains that are related.
  • The certificate’s issue date and the certificate’s expiry date.
  • The public key is a key that can be used by anybody anywhere (the private key is not revealed).

An SSL certificate helps secure information such as:

  • Login credentials.
  • Credit card transactions or bank account information.
  • Personally, identifiable information includes full name, address, date of birth, or telephone number.
  • Legal documents and contracts.


It is important to have an SSL certificate to be guaranteed safety especially on websites such as banking, airlines, and anywhere you put your sensitive information online.

Today most sites have an SSL certificate especially since Google updates its algorithm and will give priority to those sites that are secure.



Liron Segev - TheTechieGuy

Liron Segev is an award-winning tech blogger, YouTube strategist, and Podcaster. He helps brands tell their stories in an engaging way that non-techies can relate to. He also drinks way too much coffee! @Liron_Segev on Twitter