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SSL Encryption – What is SSL Encryption?

What is SSL Encryption?

Prior to the advent of TLS (Transport Layer Security) in 1999, Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) was the most extensively adopted cryptographic protocol for providing security over internet communications. Although the SSL protocol has been deprecated and replaced by TLS, this type of technology is still generally referred to as SSL.

SSL establishes a secure connection between two devices communicating over the internet or within an internal network.  One typical example of SSL is when it secures communications between your browser and a web server.  In this case, a website’s address changes from HTTP to HTTPS, with the ‘S’ denoting ‘secure’.

HTTP is considered insecure and vulnerable to eavesdropping attacks because data transferred from the browser to the server is transmitted in plaintext.  This allows hackers to intercept and read sensitive information like credit card numbers and login credentials.  When data is transmitted through a browser using HTTPS, SSL ensures that it is encrypted and protected against eavesdropping.

How Does SSL Encryption Work?

SSL is a security protocol that enables data encryption using particular algorithms.  The SSL protocol evaluates the data to be transmitted and the link, and the encryption variables are set accordingly.

Through SSL protocol, clients and servers can communicate using encrypted links.  For instance, it encrypts critical data transmitted between a client, typically a website, and a user, typically a browser.

The default communication mode between the web server and browser allows data transmission in plain text.  Unfortunately, this leaves users vulnerable to hackers who may circumvent security measures and gain access to sensitive information.  With SSL, critical data such as credit card details, login credentials, and bank account information are encrypted, making it impossible for unauthorized users to interpret and use the data even if they see it.

Why Do We Need SSL Encryption?

With so many of our daily transactions and communications taking place online, there’s no reason not to use SSL.

Encryption is one of the essential features of SSL/TLS.  When you or your users enter information on your website, that information is passed through several touchpoints before arriving at its final destination.  Without SSL/TLS, this data is transferred as plain text, intercepted or altered by threat actors.  SSL scrambles plain text entered on a website and ensures data security during transport.

Authentication is another important benefit.  The SSL/TLS connection ensures that data is sent to and received from the intended server instead of a malicious “man in the middle.”  In other words, it prevents malicious actors from impersonating a site.

Data integrity is the third core benefit of SSL/TLS. The SSL/TLS connection ensures that no data is lost or altered during transport by including a message authentication code (MAC).  This ensures that any data sent is received without changes or malicious alterations.

How to Use an SSL Encryption?

SSL encryption is based on public-key cryptography and uses a pair of keys – a private key and a public key – to transmit data between two systems securely.  Both keys are essential in decoding and encoding secure data.

Here is how SSL works:

  • A user establishes a secure connection to an SSL-enabled service, like a website.
  • The user’s application requests the server’s public key in return for its own.  This public key exchange allows both parties to encrypt messages that the other party can only read.
  •  Whenever a user sends a message to the server, the application encrypts it using the server’s public key.
  • Upon receiving the user’s message, the server decrypts it using its private key.  Messages returned to the browser are encrypted using a public key produced by the user’s application.

What about enterprise usage of SSL Encryption?

As a business, you must prioritize the security of your clients.  You must secure their personal information and prevent any possibility of their personal data being accessed online.

In today’s world, where a large percentage of transactions are conducted online, SSL encryption is a requisite for any enterprise, regardless of industry.  Even basic consumer actions, such as filling out a form to download an item, can make a website visitor concerned that their personal information will be exploited.  Assuring your consumers that their data is secure and will only be used for the purposes you’ve both agreed upon will enhance your enterprise’s credibility and trust.

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