SSL, also known as secure socket layers is a method of internet traffic encryption. It is similar to TLS encryption. When websites are browsed over the internet, the information is passed through several internet networks ISPs. While traveling through these networks, the data can sometimes be intercepted and read by third-parties. This is bad news if you are checking your bank statement online or paying a bill electronically. Anyone listening in on your connection would be able to view your login and bank account information. This is where SSL comes in. Anytime you visit a website and the URL begins with https instead of http, then the connection is being secured through SSL. You can also tell if your connection is being encrypted by the use of a lock icon near the URL in modern internet browsers. This means that any data that you transmit to or receive from the website is encrypted and cannot be read by anyone else. It is especially important to browse using SSL when using wireless internet connection because listening in on your internet connection is much easier to do when you use a wireless connection.
It is important to note though that using SSL uses additional computing power on the server that is hosting the website that you are accessing. Because of this the website will be slower. Often times websites will not allow SSL connections to content that doesn’t need to be secured because of the additional server load.
There are several types of SSL certificates:
Standard SSL certificates only secure one domain name and no additional subdomains on that main domain.
Wildcard SSL certificates are good for any subdomain on a primary domain name.
Extended Validation SSL certificates provide an additional layer of security and often show additional icons or coloring in a user’s internet browser.
There are many providers of SSL certificates to servers. They offer either 128 bit or 256 bit encryption. Some of the more well known SSL certificate providers are VeriSign, DigiCert, and Thawte.