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What’s an SSL Certificate?

Maintaining a high level of security is of the utmost importance for any site on the web. A company, an organization or any other website that handles sensitive user data must take the appropriate precautions to protect said data, in order to avoid it ending up in the hands of cybercriminals.


SSL certificates exist exactly for this reason. Then, in this article, we’re going to find out what is an SSL certificate, and why it is so important!


Definition of “SSL certificate”

SSL stands for Secure Socket Layer, a digital certificate that enables a website to switch from HTTP to HTTPS and authenticates its identity. A connection that uses HTTPS — Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure — is encrypted, meaning secure and safe from cyberattacks.


The SSL is a data file hosted in a website’s origin server, and it works as a security protocol that creates an encrypted link between the server and the browser. SSL certificates also contain the following information:

  • the site’s public key
  • the domain name that the certificate was issued for
  • the person, organization, or device it was issued to
  • the certificate authority that issued it and their digital signature
  • associated subdomains
  • issue date of the certificate
  • expiration date of the certificate

The importance of an SSL certificate

As mentioned in the introduction, this certificate is a necessary safety measure for any website that processes the users’ personal data, such as login credentials, phone number, bank account information, and so on.


A website that doesn’t use SSL encryption is unsafe for the user, since it can’t deter attacks from hackers. In fact, criminals would find it very easy to read, steal and modify the private information that’s being processed over an unencrypted connection.


Apart from fending off cybersecurity attacks, having your site certified will make users trust it more.


Examples of confidential user data SSL helps protect are:

  • login credentials
  • credit card or bank account information
  • personally identifiable information — such as full name, address, date of birth, or telephone number
  • legal documents and contracts
  • medical records
  • proprietary information

How to tell if a website is SSL certified

Now, how can you tell if a website is SSL certified? All it takes is to look at the URL in the address bar: if the address contains “https://” and there’s a padlock icon next to it, it means that the site is secure and is using an SSL encrypted connection.


Also, your web browser will usually alert you in case the site you’re about to visit doesn’t have an SSL certification. You can then leave, or proceed on the site at your own risk.



A little clarification on the term SSL: nowadays, it would be more correct to call the SSL protocol TLS (Transport Layer Security) protocol. SSL, in fact, refers to the first, older version of this certificate. After some improvements were made on it, the newer protocol became TLS. 

But the original acronym “SSL” stuck to this day. So, the majority of people just keep calling it that, even if the term is technically incorrect.