What is an SSL Certificate?
An SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate is a protocol that allows for a secure online connection between an internet user and a website’s server. SSL creates an encrypted connection while preventing issues like data tampering, message forgery, or eavesdropping.
When a browser or server attempts to connect your web server, it will request that the web server identify itself by sending a copy of an SSL certificate. Once the browser/server verifies the SSL certificate, it’ll send a message to the web server, and the SSL encrypted session begins. Any information shared between the browser/server and the web server will then be encrypted and secured.
Why Use SSL?
SSL encryption is especially important if your website has an online store component. SSL protects information such as credit card numbers, addresses, phone numbers, usernames, and passwords. Even if your website doesn’t regularly have sensitive information entered on it, SSL is still beneficial to your server’s security and function. SSL allows you to intercept data going to and from your web server–you’re guaranteed integrity of the data.
- Increased Google Rankings
- Enhanced customer trust
- Improved conversion rates
Installing an SSL Certificate
There are a few different ways to install an SSL certificate on your website.
1.) Obtain a free certificate (SiteGround, WPEngine)
2.) Obtain an SSL certificate and its installation for a small fee (GoDaddy)
The protection and security offered by each type of certificate is the same.
Types of SSL Certificates
Domain Validated (DV)
The Certificate Authority only verifies that the user requesting the certificate owns and administers the domain. Visitors will see a lock icon on the URL bar, but no information about the owner of the website and SSL certificate.
Organization Validated (OV)
The Certificate Authority confirms that the business requesting the certificate is registered and legitimate. Visitors can click the lock icon on the URL bar to see the name of the registered business.
Extended Validation (EV)
The Certificate Authority validates the organization by requesting even more documentation and information. Visitors will see the green lock icon and the business name inside of the address bar.
Obtaining a Free SSL Certificate
(This guide assumes you have full control of your web server and a dedicated IP.)
You will need the following information:
- IP address
- Server username (with admin)
- User password (or SSH key authentication)
- Software (i.e. Apache, IIS)
- Operating system and version number
Once you have all of the information, you can connect to your server and generate a free SSL certificate. Follow the steps provided by Sucri.net.
- Connect to your server over SSH using the IP address, username, and password.
- Visit the Certbot website and choose your server operating system and software.
- Follow the instructions given for your server to do the next steps.
- Run any commands listed to Install dependencies.
- Run the commands listed to Install Certbot.
- Run the commands listed to Get Started and generate the certificate.
- Provide an email address when prompted.
- Agree to the Terms when prompted.
- Run the commands listed to test renewals under Automating Renewal.
- Set up a cron or systemd job on your server to automate the renewal process
Follow the instructions and fill out information when prompted. To see more information on installing an SSL certificate and maintaining it, click here.
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