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What is an SSL/TLS Certificate and How do they Secure Your Website? - Backend Development Series

Updated: Dec 9, 2022

Why is it safe to give your personal information on one website and not another? What makes one website safer and more secure than another? How can buyers be certain that a company's website is a place where they can securely check out? Actually, there are various things going on behind the scenes to make sure everything you browse on the internet is protected and secure.

Everything boils down to Certificate Authorities and SSL/TLS encryption. It ensures that communication over the internet is kept private.

If you are someone who is interested to know about Certificate Authorities, and SSL/TLS certificates - what are they and how they help to create a secure communication between your browser and the web server, this blog is for you.

Let's dive right in -

  1. What is a Certificate Authority?

  2. What are SSL/TLS Certificates?

  3. How do SSL/TLS certificates work?

  4. How will the client verify the chain of certificates?

  5. What is SSL Pinning?

  6. SSL/TLS Handshake

  7. What is included in an SSL/TLS certificate?

  8. Who needs an SSL/TLS certificate?

  9. What is the maximum SSL/TLS certificate validity period?

  10. Types of SSL Certificates

  11. Differences between SSL and TLS certificate

  12. How do I view the SSL certificate in Chrome, Firefox, and Safari

  13. How to view the SSL certificate on Google Chrome?

  14. How to view the SSL certificate on Firefox?

  15. How to view the SSL certificate on Safari?

  16. Conclusion

What is a Certificate Authority?

Certificate authorities are third-party companies that issue digital certificates to users to verify the identity of a server. When you visit a website secured with SSL or TLS, the browser looks for a valid certificate from one of these authorities and if it can't find one, it alerts you.

If this doesn't make sense now, it's fine, we will deep dive into it below.

What are SSL/TLS Certificates?

An SSL/TLS Certificate is a type of digital certificate issued by the Certificate Authority that establishes encrypted links between a web server and a web browser. It is used to protect the confidentiality and integrity of data being transferred over the internet.

To put it simply, the SSL/TLS certificate provides an identity for your website, meaning that it cannot be impersonated by anyone else. It plays an important role to encrypt the traffic between your site and your visitors so nobody can see what they are sending or receiving.

TLS is the successor of the SSL/TLS protocol and is used in modern systems. Even though there are differences between SSL and TLS, they are often interchangeably used to mean the same thing.

SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer

TLS stands for Transport Layer Security

You may be wondering -"Okay Gourav, enough with the definitions, what exactly are these SSL/TLS certificates and how do they guarantee secure communication?"

Let's look at it.