How SSL Certificates Work-And What They Do

You already know what an SSL certificate is and how to get an SSL certificate. But how do SSL certificates work, and exactly what does an SSL certificate do? We’ll walk you through the ins and out of SSL certificate functionalities—starting by breaking down the basics.

What Does An SSL Certificate Do?

SSL certificates enable secure online transactions, keeping your company’s customer information protected. Sometimes described as “digital passports,” SSL certificates provide the authentication needed to appropriately protect—and keep private—confidential website and browser communications. This can include anything from credit card information or a social security number to a phone number or billing address.

SSL certificates play an integral part in the data encryption process, initiating secure sessions with your customers’ (or any user’s) browser by digitally connecting your company information to a cryptographic key. But how it does this is another story.

How Do SSL Certificates Work?

While encryption and authentication technology can be quite complex, here’s a simple scenario of how SSL certificates work to make sure your online transactions are secure:

  1. A browser tries to connect to an SSL-secured website or web server-prompting the web server to identify itself.
  2. A copy of the SSL certificate is transmitted to the browser by the web server.
  3. The browser checks to determine if the SSL certificate is trustworthy.
  4. If the browser doesn’t trust the certificate, it denies the connection. If the browser does acknowledge the certificate and trusts it, the web server is sent a message.
  5. The web server receives the message and then responds by sending back a digitally signed acceptance to begin an SSL-encrypted session.
  6. Finally, encrypted data can now be shared between the two parties in a safe and secure, confidential transaction.

Still asking yourself, “How do SSL certificates work?” Browse the SiteLock blog to find past, current, and future posts about SSL certificate information.

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