SSL certificates are something that a lot of website operators eventually have to deal with. Most have some sense that it's a security thing, but what is an SSL certificate really supposed to do?

Creating Trust

Using a cryptographic key to transmit and receive data is a core concept in modern internet security. Information is encoded at one end, such as when you send your credit card number to an e-commerce website. This ensures that any parties between your computer and the server you're transmitting the information to can't intercept and read the data. At the opposite end, the server then has to be able to decode the message accurately. It then has to reverse the process to send confirmation to the customer.

How do you ensure that the transactions with the server involve the one you think it does? This is the problem that SSL certificates solve.


When the owner of a website buys a certificate, their information into the cryptographic key. To purchase SSL certificate credentials, a company must provide details like its name and address. The issuing SSL certificate services provider also attaches its information to the key.

This information is then transmitted to all the major certificate authorities. When the certificate for a specific domain name is installed on a server, all HTTPS requests will include a copy of the certificate. Browsers then receive that copy of the certificate and compare it to the one on file with the major authorities. If everything checks out, the browser and the server agree to share encrypted information with each other.

How Does Encryption Work?

A message is jumbled up using an algorithm. If you've ever used a decoder ring, professionally thought of as a Caesar cipher, you have a very rudimentary idea of how this works. Imagine, however, that the jumbling process was repeated billions or even trillions of times according to a number of different patterns. That's what's happening when using SSL.

How Secure Is It?

The 256-bit AES encryption at the base of most SSL certificates is incredibly secure. It is estimated that using one of the most powerful supercomputers on the planet that cracking it would require 9.63 x 1052 years to accomplish. In other words, if the hypothetical folks who were trying to hack into your encrypted communications were successful in reading them, the entire human race would be long gone before they got an answer.

Reach out to an SSL certificate service to learn more.