SSL certificates are a way to provide encrypted security to the web. It involves the use of cryptographic protocols and a trusted third-party certificate authority to provide privacy to users.

SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer and is technically an outdated term despite prolonged usage. The successor to SSL, and the correct term for the technology if you were to buy a certificate today, is TLS or Transport Layer Security. The latest SSL protocol 3.0 is officially deprecated as of RFC 7568 with earlier protocols actually being prohibited for their lack of security.

This information appears to be trivial since the majority of certificate authorities still market their certificates as SSL. In fact, as of this moment, Google-ing ‘TLS certificate’ will find the Wikipedia page for Transport Layer Security as the first hit with zero ads; however, Google-ing ‘SSL certificate’ yields four ads and a page full of vendors.

The name Transport Layer Security refers to the Transport layer in the TCP/IP protocol suite. The transport layer sits between the internet layer, or that stuff routers care about (IPv4, IPv6, etc), and the application layer, or in this case what our browser cares about (HTTP, HTTPS, etc). Data is encrypted at this stage in the process and then packed into an IP packet for safe travels along a public network. This placement addresses the vulnerabilities present between our router and our browser, such as man-in-the-middle attacks, while verifying that the server we are connecting to is in fact owned and operated by the rightful company.

There is a range of certificates available that vary wildly in price. The most expensive certificates will involve paperwork as part of their validation process as an added measure. This will get you a nice green badge in the browser’s address bar letting users know how secure your site is. A Unified Communications Certificate or UCC offers a single certificate across multiple domains and wildcard certificates support multiple subdomains ( is an example of a subdomain). The cheapest offerings will involve basic security with support for a single domain and a quick validation process.

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