In today’s digital world, website security is more important than ever. And the heart of any secure website is the use of an encryption protocol.
When it comes to encrypting web traffic, two popular security protocols exist: SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) and TLS (Transport Layer Security).
Each is designed to protect data traveling between a web server and your computer, but the protocols have some differences. Understanding these differences is critical when deciding which one is best for your website or application. For instance, do you need to encrypt data during transit, or is it more important to make sure that data never leaves the server?
This guide covers the basics of SSL and TLS – giving you an overview of the differences between them, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of each. We’ll also discuss how you can choose which protocol is suitable for your website or application.
First, let’s look at what both protocols are, and what they are designed to offer in terms of connectivity and security.
- What is SSL?
- What is TLS?
- Where Would I Use a TLS/SSL Certificate?
- Different Types of TLS/SSL Certificates
- How to Choose the Right SSL/TLS Certificate
- The Bottom Line: Don’t Risk Your Security
What is SSL?
SSL -or Secure Sockets Layer – is a security protocol that provides end-to-end encryption between two communicating applications.
The goal of SSL is to ensure the connection between a web browser and server is secure, keeping any data sent over the connection safe from eavesdroppers.
It does this by authenticating each side of the conversation via digital certificates and then encrypting the transferred data. SSL certificates are also used to authenticate the identity of a website’s owner, thus providing an added layer of trust for visitors.
To understand how SSL works, think of it as a padlock that locks the communication between two applications. This lock prevents anyone from accessing the transferred information without having the correct “key” to unlock it. The key is the digital certificate, which must be present for the encrypted connection to be established.
Many choose SSL as it is a protocol often supported by most web browsers and servers. Plus, it is the internet’s most widely used security protocol for establishing encrypted connections.
What is TLS?
TLS – or Transport Layer Security – is an evolution of the SSL protocol designed to provide more robust encryption and better performance.
While SSL uses symmetric encryption, TLS adds an additional layer of asymmetric encryption. This extra layer provides a longer key length, making it more difficult for attackers to breach the connection’s security.
TLS certificates are also used to authenticate websites in much the same way as SSL certificates. However, they use a newer version of the X.509 standard, which is more secure than the older version used by SSL certificates.
Where Would I Use a TLS/SSL Certificate?
By creating a layer of encryption between two applications, TLS or SSL certificates can be used to secure nearly any type of digital communication or interaction. This includes web browsers, email clients, and other applications that rely on a secure connection.
SSL is often used to secure websites with payment gateways or forms that require sensitive information such as credit card details. TLS can also be used for this purpose, but it is more commonly used in the banking industry and other regulated sectors where extra levels of security are required.
Different Types of TLS/SSL Certificates
With so many different types of SSL and TLS certificates available, it can be difficult to choose which one is best for your website. Let’s break down the most common types:
1. Domain Validated (DV)
This is the most basic type of SSL/TLS certificate that simply authenticates that you own the domain name and not much else. It is suitable for securing small websites or blogs that do not handle sensitive user data.
2. Organization Validated (OV)
An OV certificate requires the website owner to provide some additional information to verify their identity. This type of SSL/TLS certificate is best for e-commerce websites and other businesses that need a higher level of trust from their visitors.
3. Extended Validation (EV)
This is the most secure type of SSL/TLS certificate available and requires extensive identity authentication. An EV certificate is best for large, publicly traded companies or organizations that are required to adhere to rigorous security standards.
4. Single Domain
This type of SSL/TLS certificate is used to secure one domain or subdomain. It is a good option for small business websites that only need basic security. For instance, if you have a blog or an informational website, a single-domain certificate should be enough.
A Wildcard SSL/TLS certificate is used to secure multiple subdomains of the same domain name. It is best for large websites with many different sections and subsites that all need their own security certificates – allowing you to secure all of them with just one certificate.
How to Choose the Right SSL/TLS Certificate
Choosing the right certificate depends on your website’s size, purpose, and level of security needed. To give you an idea of the process, here are some questions you should ask yourself when selecting the correct type of SSL/TLS certificate:
How much user data will my website be handling?
First, consider the type of data you will be collecting and storing on your website. If it is sensitive or private information, consider getting an EV certificate as this provides the highest level of encryption available.
If you want to build trust with your users, choosing a certificate that provides identity validation is essential. An EV certificate is the most trusted type of SSL/TLS certificate, so if you need to build trust with your visitors, this would be a good option.
If you have multiple subdomains on your website that all need their own security certificates, you should consider getting a Wildcard certificate. This will allow you to secure all of your subdomains with just one certificate.
Finally, consider the cost of different types of certificates and decide which one fits within your budget. Depending on the type of certificate, some may be more expensive than others – so make sure to account for this in your decision.
The Bottom Line: Don’t Risk Your Security
SSL and TLS are both essential components of any website’s security system. They not only provide encryption for data but also establish trust with visitors to your website.
Understanding the different types of certificates available and how they differ can help you make the best choice for your website. So don’t risk your security – get an SSL/TLS certificate today!