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What is SSL Hosting?

SSL, CA, EV SSL, Trust Seals – We’ve all shopped online before and at one time or another you may have noticed that little security lock somewhere by the address bar, or in the lower right hand corner of your browser window. You may have even noticed your entire address bar turn green on some sites or an ‘https://’ at the beginning of a url. Those symbols show that Secure Socket Layer (SSL) certificates are being used. These are electronic bits of encrypted code that are issued by a certifying authority, like GlobalSign and Verisign (now part of Symantec).

SSL certificates are electronic documents that verify the site and the data that is submitted to it are encrypted. This protects sensitive information like financial information, personal info and anything you might receive or transmit over a web session. Certificates are issued with two keys - one that is public, one that is private. These keys allow for the verification of the certificate on the web server that they are installed on.

Third party SSL Secures Identity

When SSL certificates are issued by a third party, there is a level of verification that has taken place that identifies the company or person who first requested the certificate. Certificates are not perpetual, meaning they have an expiration and have to be renewed. Consumers can have a measure of confidence that not only is their data encrypted, but they know that the certificate was acquired by someone who validated their identity to a trusted authority. These trusted authorities are built in to every browser.

Imagine if everyone could produce their own state ID’s, that would make them worthless, so the requirements to get one are controlled and they are only issued by state offices.

SSL – A Matter of Trust

The takeaway is that digital certificates are only as valid as we perceive them to be. You trust your state to do the due diligence to validate an ID applicant’s identity. Third-party SSL certificates are based on a chain of trust between your browser and just a handful of certificate authorities. These root certificate authorities (CA) serve the Public Key infrastructure (PKI) for the public. Modern web browsers automatically trust digital certificates that are issued by the pre-installed root CAs and any subordinate CAs that are part of that chain of trust. Companies often issue equipment and systems that interact with systems whose identity is certified and secured by corporate PKI systems. Companies install their own certificates into the trusted stores on devices and applications so that identity can be tightly controlled by their own means.

Not every certificate is the same, there are different types that are secured by different strengths of encryption levels. If you hover your cursor over the padlock icon, it will report the certificate encryption strength and other identifying info. The web standard is generally agreed to be 2048-bit encryption.

Extended Validation SSLs

Seen some green? The highest certificate that can be attained is the ‘green bar’ certificate, also known as an Extended Validation certificate. These high security certificates require a higher level of validation than normal. The validating certificate authority actually checks business records, business entities, street addresses and more in a comprehensive set of identifying steps. When a browser sees one of these special certificates, the address bar (or a part of it) turns green letting the internet user know that the identity of that site is authentic and secured at the highest level possible.

SSL Choices

The offerings that are available from certificate vendors can be quite confusing. You will find several different options for levels of validation, you can find different hash types, different key lengths and a number of warranty services. Matching up the application with the right certificate can be a difficult task. It’s always best to find a responsive provider that is willing to guide you through to the right certificate.

Some hosting providers will include support for SSL certificates as part of their eCommerce packages. These might be ‘Shared SSL’ certificates, which are lower grade certificates which may not meet more advanced security or financial requirements. Always check your certificate requirements and costs to be sure you are buying the right certificate ahead of time.

SSL Certificates Frequently Asked Questions

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