SSL certificates have taken the web by storm. Today, sites of all sizes need an SSL certificate to secure sensitive data and stay relevant in search engines. No HTTPS means no protection and visibility. Whether it’s just a blog or a complex e-commerce platform, SSL certificates are a core element of successful website building. When it comes to the SSL security level, understanding how SSL certs work may be quite tricky for the less tech-savvy users. Cryptography is an entire science by itself, but once you grasp the basic principles, the whole picture becomes crystal clear.
With so many types of SSL certificates on sale, one of the most frequent questions users ask is about security levels. A common misconception is that SSL certs provide different kinds of encryption. When there’s a big disparity in prices across various SSL brands, it’s reasonable to think that a more expensive cert offers stronger encryption, but that’s not the case with SSL certificates.
SSL security level is the same across all certificates
All SSL certificates irrespective of validation type, brand, price and features follow the same cryptographic protocol – Transport Security Layer or simply TLS. An entry-level Domain Validation certificate suitable for basic sites and blogs provides the same encryption as a premium Extended Validation certificate appropriate for a financial institution. But if encryption is identical across all certificates, why are there so many types and prices?
To bring the utmost clarity to this matter, let’s get a bird’s eye view on what SSL certificates are and how they function. There’s no need to dive deep into the technical aspects, investigating the will suffice.
The type of SSL validation affects the price not the security level
An SSL certificate is a small digital file that verifies and validates a website’s or company’s identity. SSL certs offer several verification levels, from basic Domain Validation where Certificate Authorities check domain ownership only, to Extended Validation, where the entire business undergoes comprehensive authentication.
While both types have the same encryption, they offer different degrees of authenticity and trustworthiness. Domain Validation (DV) certificates are perfect for basic sites, online portfolios and informational portals, but are pretty much useless for organizations, e-commerce stores, and companies seeking the highest level of customer trust.
Here’s where Business (BV) and Extended Validation (EV) certificates step in. By verifying and validating companies’ official documentation, they become a strong indicator of a genuine business operating in good faith.
Issuing a BV or EV certificate requires much more effort and resources than a regular DV cert, which is available within 5 minutes. Moreover, BV and EV certs come with better extra features and bigger warranties for your customers’ peace of mind. EV also protects your website from phishing attacks, which are on the rise due to free SSL certificates.
The underlying technology behind SSL certificates
Now that you know what an SSL certificate is let’s take a look at the underlying technology behind it. An SSL cert follows a cryptographic protocol to encrypt the communications between browsers and web servers. The first secure protocol was developed by Netscape back in 1995.
It was called Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), hence the name SSL certificates. Since it was a new technology for the fast-evolving web, SSL had too many vulnerabilities to ensure bulletproof encryption. With cyber-attackers exploiting it relentlessly, the SSL protocol was replaced by TLS (Transport Layer Security), a more stable and safer technology.
While both protocols share many similarities, TLS has proved to be more secure over the years. The TLS 1.2 release has been in use for over a decade, with TLS 1.3 introducing even tighter security and faster TLS connections. If there’s one thing you should know about the TLS encryption, that’s its impressive strength. Cracking TLS encryption is beyond human capabilities. We’ve crunched the numbers and proved it here.
Unfortunately, even with unbreakable encryption, attackers may still find ways to intercept users’ sensitive data. From a purely technical point, SSL certificates offer impeccable encryption, but that’s not enough against all the threats.
If you don’t install and configure your certificate properly, you create loopholes for hackers to exploit. Sticking to the best SSL management practices is imperative to prevent SSL connection errors, and website outages.
SSL certificates may be offering the same SSL security level for everyone, but the key to a healthy encryption is the correct installation and configuration.