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What springs to mind when you hear the word “web server certificate?” The people who’re miles away from the nerdy stuff could think that it’s some kind of a certificate for a web server. A certificate for a web server? It doesn’t make any sense, does it? Well, that’s the thing about these terms. They sound sweet and straightforward on the surface but mean something totally different when we peel the layers back. “Web server SSL certificate” is one such term.
In this post, we’re going to clear all the confusion you have regarding web server certificates and give you some surprising information we think you’ll find quite interesting. But before we take a dive deep into web server SSL certificates, let’s first have a look at a scenario…
Let’s go back to the era of the dot-com bubble when there’s a lot of hype and hysteria surrounding the internet and the things one could do with it. Let’s say there’s a person named Jeff who gets an internet connection at his place. Now, Jeff is the kind of person who’d wait overnight in long queues to get his hands on newly-launched electronic products. Jeff is super-excited about the internet and the things he could do online.
Now Jeff, through his friend, hears about online shopping. As expected, Jeff is like, “Wow! This is so cool” and starts searching for things he could buy using his credit card. After spending a great deal of time searching for products, he decides to purchase some books. He submits his personal and credit card details on one website that sells books, and he places an order worth $150.
On the next day, Jeff goes to the bank and finds out about a $5000 purchase from his credit card. Jeff is shocked as he hadn’t made any purchase of that amount. He’s wondering what happened and blocks his card immediately. Then, he goes to Bill, who’s into cyber-security. Bill has a glance at the website on which Jeff made the purchase, and in a second, tells him that that website is a scam. Poor Jeff can do nothing but shake his head in disbelief.
When it comes to the internet, we interact with the websites, not the actual person/organization behind that website. Therefore, it opens up a big door of opportunities for hackers and fraudsters. All they need to do is create fake websites that look like legitimate websites of organizations, and the rest will be taken care of by people like Jeff.
Let’s take a look at this with an example. You’re currently on our website, “comodosslstore.com.” What if a hacker creates a website that looks exactly like our website and gives it a name such as “comodosslstores.com?” If the fraudster somehow manages to land users on their dummy website, users could easily fall for it and could result in giving their sensitive data, as Jeff did.
This is called the problem of identity, and that’s where web server SSL certificates come in.
Web server certificate, more commonly known as a “SSL certificate,” is a type of digital certificate (set of data files) that provides authentication for a website and enables an encrypted connection. In simpler words, it lets users know the legitimacy of a website and secures the data transmitting in between a web server and its users.
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A web server SSL certificate allows you to…
As we saw, a web server certificate has two primary functions: authentication and encryption. Both these functions are taken care of by a technique/system called “public key cryptography,” also known as “public key infrastructure” (PKI).
The public key infrastructure uses two cryptographic keys for authentication and encryption between the web browser and the web server. These keys come in pairs and are known as the “public key” and “private key.” The reason why these keys come in pairs is that they’re mathematically related to each other.
A public key, as you can tell by its name, is publicly available. Anyone can access the public key. A private key, as you can guess by its name, is supposed to be kept private. Both these keys are a part of the files known as “web server certificate.”
Now you might be wondering how this all exactly works. Aren’t you? Well, we’re just about to dive into that. The functions of an SSL certificate – authentication and encryption – take place in a process known as “SSL handshake.” This handshake is a series of steps of communication between a web browser and a web server.
Let’s see how SSL/TLS handshake pans out.
Note: We’ve simplified the entire handshake process for better understanding. The actual handshake process is more complex and more profound.
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Now you might be wondering, where did the “identity verification” go? Well, it’s right here, it hasn’t gone anywhere. Web server certificates are issued by trusted third-party entities regarded as “certificate authorities.” These certificate authorities are supposed to conduct a verification process before issuing an SSL/TLS certificate to you.
The level of this vetting process depends on the type of web server SSL certificate you want to issue. Surprised? Well, yes, there are various types of web server certificates. These types are based on the level of validation conducted by the certificate authority (CA). They are:
Domain validation SSL certificates, as it sounds, involve the verification of domain ownership. Before issuing this type of web server certificate, the certificate authority is supposed to verify the domain ownership of the person/organization wanting to issue an SSL certificate. This is quite a simple process, and it’s entirely automated. Therefore, it can be completed within minutes. Such web server certificates are ideal for personal websites and blogs. They’re not a good fit for organizations since users won’t be able to see the organization behind the website.
Organization validation (OV) SSL certificates are mid-level certificates that involve the verification of the organization/business. If you’re an organization and you want to show your customers that the website belongs to you, organizations validation (OV) web server SSL certificates fit the bill. Before issuing a certificate to an organization, certificate authorities (CAs) verify the ownership of the business
Extended validation (EV) SSL certificates, as you can guess by its name, are the most advanced type of SSL certificates. To issue an EV web server SSL certificate, you need to undergo a thorough vetting process conducted by a certificate authority (CA). Typically, this process takes around 1-3 days. The certificate is issued on completion of the vetting process.
Apart from the advantages of authentication and encryption, a web server SSL certificate gives you a boost in your SEO rankings, satisfy PCI/DSS requirements to accept payments, and ultimately establish user trust and credibility. Not only that, but not having an SSL certificate will cause all major browsers to display a security warning to everyone accessing your website. This, obviously, isn’t a good thing by any means. So, if you’re thinking of getting a web server certificate for your website, you should go ahead and get one immediately. If you want to have an SSL certificate by the world’s most trusted certificate authority (CA) – at the lowest price – you can have a look at our full range of SSL certificates. You won’t get cheaper anywhere else. We guarantee it!
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