A Guide to SSL Cert and Encryption
Online security is always important and it often seems that with each new attack that we have to be extra careful. However, sometimes it helps to ensure you have the basics covered, as missing these can often leave you exposed to some of the oldest of tricks.
For instance, it is very important to have decent data encryption, or to at least be aware of it. For instance, as an e-commerce user, you shouldn’t use a store that doesn’t meet this level of encryption. Fortunately, the likes of SSL Cert exist to highlight this for you.
Encryption is a method of changing communications so they can’t be hacked into mid-transport. In the old days, this involved writing in code and, with computers, little has changed. With the right keys at either end (such as a user and a website) data can be transformed into unreadable code. To the observing eye, it would look like a series of characters and data values that made no sense – not until you unravelled them again.
Of course, the better the encryption, the harder it will be to break. With digital technology, this is done by converting the data into bits – the small units of data that make up bytes (short for ‘by eight’, as 8 bits make a byte). A lot of encryption will be around 128-bit – the commonly accepted minimum – but the more effective forms double this to 256-bit.
The most commonly certified form of encryption is SSL – Secure Sockets Layer – and this is used to highlight websites with an adequate form of protection. At its most basic, an SSL certificate from a recognised authority such as Thawte awards the website a padlock symbol on web browsers and the URL starts with HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) rather than the standard HTTP. Both of these reassure users and are a good indicator of whether a website can be trusted.
Furthermore, many businesses often opt for an Extended Validation license, or SSL EV. Aside from signalling an even better level of SSL, an EV certificate also changes the address bar and/or padlock symbol to green on your browser. This provides yet another key way to tell if the website you’re using can be trusted.
In other words, don’t put in sensitive data until you see these signs. Without them there’s no guarantee the site you’re on is protected well enough, or at all.