For 28 years, SSL—Secure Sockets Layer—has been instrumental in safeguarding online communications from prying eyes and nefarious intentions. But like anything that has been around for a while, it has evolved and developed some interesting trivia. Here are five things you may not know about SSL.
Netscape was the first to bring SSL to public awareness with the introduction of SSL 2.0 in 1995. But did SSL 2.0 have a predecessor? Absolutely. SSL 1.0 was the initial version developed by Netscape, made in reaction to Mosaic 1.0, the first-ever web browser. However, it never saw the light of day due to security weaknesses.
The term SSL certificates might be popular, but the more accurate description today is Transport Security Layer (TLS) certificates. The industry upgraded to SSL 3.0 in 1996 but found it still had glaring vulnerabilities. TLS 1.0 emerged in 1999 as a response, followed by upgrades to TLS 1.1 in 2006 and TLS 1.2 in 2008. The most recent version, TLS 1.3, came out in 2018 and is now supported by almost 65% of websites.
To operate effectively, SSL/TLS uses two keys: a public key for encrypting data and a private key for decrypting it. The server's SSL/TLS certificate contains the public key and shares it openly with clients for encryption. On the other end, the private key is securely stored on the server and is responsible for decrypting the incoming data. This dual-key mechanism is essential for secure and authentic communication.
Perfect Forward Secrecy (PFS) enhances the SSL/TLS protocol by preventing the decryption of past or future session data, even if a cybercriminal compromises a server's private key. PFS employs either the Diffie-Hellman Ephemeral (DHE) or the Elliptic Curve Diffie-Hellman Ephemeral (ECDHE) protocols. These protocols make it harder for attackers to decipher data, as they require both the server and client to calculate their keys independently, using a shared value.
SSL certificates may offer the same encryption, but they are available in three different levels of validation. The choice of certificate depends on your needs, budget, and compliance requirements.
Domain Validation (DV): Provides basic identity assurance and is ideal for websites that require straightforward encryption. These are often the least expensive and quickest to issue.
Organization Validation (OV): Offers a moderate level of identity assurance, involving a light vetting process. It's generally quick but may take a few days.
Extended Validation (EV): Demands a rigorous vetting process and gives the highest level of identity assurance. Depending on the availability of public records, this can be a fast or more drawn-out process.
Online security has never been more important, and SSL/TLS remains a reliable way to protect your communications and data. With different types of certificates and varying levels of validation, you can find the right fit for your website's needs. So go ahead, explore your options and secure your online space effectively.
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