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When you’re either shopping online or using a site that requires a login, have you ever seen the little padlock down in the right hand corner of your browser? Or maybe you’ve noticed that the address of a site starts with “https.” Perhaps you’ve even received a warning from your web browser that you’re about to send data over an “unencrypted” environment. All of these signs tell you whether or not a site is using a secure connection with your browser, called a “Secure Socket Layer” or “SSL.”
SSL is the standard means on the Web for creating a secure, encrypted link between a Web server and a browser. It ensures safe passage of sensitive information, such as credit card numbers, login information, etc. Sites use SSL as a means to protect online transactions with their users or customers. Encryption simply means that the data is scrambled into a sort of code that can only be unscrambled by the proper “decryption” key.
An SSL certificate is a digital record that verifies the identity of a site and encrypts information sent to the server using SSL technology. It serves as a sort of electronic “passport” that establishes an online entity’s credentials for your browser. When you attempt to send confidential information to a Web server, your browser accesses the server’s digital certificate and then establishes a secure connection.
An SSL Certificate will include the name of the certificate holder, a serial number and expiration date, a copy of the certificate holder’s “public” encryption key and a digital signature from the authority that issued the certificate. Your browser inspects all of that information in the background every time you enter a secure site. Conversely, if you try to submit personal information to an unsecured Web site, your browser should warn you that the site is not secure and that sensitive data might be intercepted by third parties on the Net.
If you’re doing secure transactions online as a user or customer, you should be aware of the security status of a site based on messages from your browser, and the presence or absence of the padlock icon and “https” in the address. If you’re a business doing commerce online, your customers will be doing the same. A valid SSL certificate from GoDaddy.com can make all the difference in letting your customers know that it’s safe to send personal information over the Net to your site.