5 Types of SSL Certificates to Secure Your Website

For most people, buying an SSL certificate is all about encryption and compliance but that is just the tip of the iceberg. Any cheap SSL certificate can turn on HTTPS and make your website PCI DSS compliant but that is not what you should be looking for. To keep your website and your customers secure, you must cover up all the blind spots through which vulnerabilities may seep in.

The only way to get that right is by gaining thorough knowledge about the different types of SSL certificates and understanding what each has in store for your website. This requires a detailed understanding of how the SSL works, which we shall discuss in a while. Once you have found the perfect SSL type and installed it on the web server, the certificate triggers encryption to the predefined areas of the website.

At this juncture, it is important to point out that SSL certificates offer more than just encryption. Premium SSL types like the OV and EV SSL which we shall soon discuss, offer superior validation. This helps established businesses confirm their identities and young businesses to establish credibility. Let us now discuss how the SSL works followed by the various types available.

What is an SSL Certificate?

The SSL or the TLS certificate refers to a digital certificate issued by a trusted third party known as the Certificate Authority (CA).  These certificates perform two key functions — encryption and validation — depending on the type you choose. When installed on the web server, the SSL uses an advanced cryptographic suite to create a secure virtual environment in which end-to-end communication remains encrypted. Besides security, it also offers different levels of third-party validation which is denoted by a corresponding trust seal visible to the user.

How Do SSL Certificates Work?

The SSL certificate is a term used to refer to the present-day TLS certificates, which make use of the Transport Layer Security, and advanced cryptographic protocol. The TLS makes use of session keys to authenticate secure data transfer between the intended parties. For the rest, the encrypted data remains incomprehensible, thus keeping it secure from eavesdroppers.

The encryption process begins when the browser sends an HTTPS request to the web server, which is responded to with the server’s certificate which contains its public key. The browser then verifies it by confirming the CA’s digital signature.

Once this step is complete, the browser makes use of the public key sent earlier to agree upon a session key, which is used by both the server and the browser to encrypt the data exchanged between them. Then on, for every session, a new session key is agreed upon and used which makes the data exchange secure.

Types of SSL Certificate

We have discussed everything to know about what SSL certificates do and how they work to keep your website secure. Let us now move further and discuss the five types of SSL certificates you can choose from.

  1. DV SSL Certificates

Domain validated (DV) SSL certificates are the most basic type and are sometimes referred to as Standard SSL certificates. These are cheap SSL certificates that offer higher level of encryption coverage with the most basic level of validation, which is limited to verifying domain ownership only.

Each DV SSL lets the user encrypt client-server communication for only one domain or subdomain. If the site has multiple subdomains, you will need one DV SSL for each of those. Coming to the validation part, the process is much faster and usually takes less than an hour. This begins with the website owner applying for an SSL, after which the CA performs the validation through one of the three modes — email verification, HTTP validation, or through DNS record.

The email verification is performed by verifying the domain ownership through an email verification link being sent to the applicant’s email ID containing the name of the domain for which the application has been filed. On the other hand, the HTTP validation requires file upload and DNS validation requires setting up a CNAME record through the cPanel or WHM for the validation process. After successful validation, the DV SSL is issued to the applicant and must then be installed on the server.

  1. OV SSL Certificate

Organization Validated (OV) SSL certificates are premium solutions designed for those who need strong validation. This type of SSL validation is usually sought by individuals or organizations that wish to prove their genuineness of a business to the masses. Therefore, the validation process is much more elaborate for its issuance.

Usually, the CA’s representative skims through public records to confirm the existence of the applicant’s business. If this fails, you may have to produce certain documents for individual or business validation. For validation only, you can pick the OV SSL, but if you have multiple subdomains on your website, consider the Wildcard OV — a close variant that comes with the wildcard feature.

  1. Wildcard SSL Certificate

The Wildcard SSL is a unique solution tailored specifically for businesses having only one primary domain and unlimited subdomains. When you apply for this type of SSL certificate, the subdomains are defined in the application by an asterisk (*.domain.com), also known as the wildcard character. Thereafter, it can be used to encrypt multiple subdomains without the need for individual installation and maintenance.

  1. EV SSL Certificates

The Extended Validation (EV) SSL offers the most comprehensive validation to garner customer confidence and trust. Its issuance involves verifying domain ownership and organizational validation through the applicant’s official registration documents, a letter from a licensed professional like a CPA or a Notary, or by producing a credit report from a recognized financial reporting agency. Also, the CA confirms whether the applicant’s business is in existence so make sure you have all of this in place before you buy an SSL certificate with extended validation. Furthermore, you may opt for an EV SSL or its more popular version — the multi-domain EV SSL which lets you encrypt multiple FQDNs.

  1. Multi-Domain SSL Certificate

Many businesses choose to have multiple domains for better security, brand protection, and expansion purposes. Also, e-commerce businesses and affiliate marketers usually own multiple domains which make SSL certificates an expensive affair. Such businesses can apply for a single multi domain SSL certificate to encrypt all their domains and subdomains if any. It is a cost saving SSL certificate that allows protecting all domains in a single certificate. Moreover, you can install the same certificate on multiple servers.

Final Takeaway

In the virtual world, all it takes for a business to collapse is a wee bit of negligence towards cybersecurity. Thus, we have provided all the information required to make you aware of how SSL works and the various types available. You can now choose one based on your website’s architecture and the purpose for which you wish to buy an SSL certificate.

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