What is Secure Sockets Layer (SSL)? All You Need to Know

By Tibor Moes / Updated: June 2023

What is Secure Sockets Layer (SSL)? All You Need to Know

What is Secure Sockets Layer (SSL)?

One of the most effective ways to protect online communications is by using Secure Sockets Layer (SSL). But what is Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) and how does it work? Worry not, as we will take you on a journey through the world of SSL, guiding you through its history, importance, and how to implement it on your website for a secure browsing experience.


  • Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) is a standard security protocol that enables encrypted communication between a web server and a web browser.

  • SSL uses both symmetric and asymmetric cryptography to create a secure connection, allowing data to be transmitted safely over the internet.

  • Implementing SSL has positive impacts on SEO & user trust by improving search engine rankings and increasing website security.

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Understanding SSL: A Brief History

Back in 1995, Netscape developed SSL as an encryption-based Internet security protocol to ensure privacy, authentication, and data integrity in Internet communications. Over the years, SSL has gone through several updates, each one more secure than the last, until it was eventually replaced by Transport Layer Security (TLS) in 1999. The most recent version of TLS, TLSv1.3, is now the widely accepted standard for secure internet connections.

Although SSL has been replaced by TLS, the terms are often used interchangeably, leading to some confusion. The main takeaway is that SSL laid the foundation for internet security protocols, and its evolution into TLS has significantly improved the safety and privacy of online communications.

The Importance of SSL in Internet Security

SSL is essential because it was the first widely used and broadly implemented protocol for secure communication between client and server systems. SSL certificates set up a trust-based secure connection between a web server and a browser, ensuring that only the intended receiver can decode the exchanged data. This level of security is crucial when it comes to protecting sensitive information, such as usernames, passwords, and forms used to submit personal information, documents, or images.

By implementing SSL on a website, site owners can enhance security and performance while keeping user activity confidential. SSL ensures that the information sent between a web server and a browser is kept secure and away from potential attacks, providing the peace of mind that internet users need and expect in today’s digital world.

SSL Certificates: What They Are and How They Work

An SSL certificate is a digital certificate that verifies the identity of a website and encrypts data sent to the server using SSL technology. It plays a vital role in showing users and web browsers that they are communicating with the right web server and not someone pretending to be it. To obtain an SSL certificate, a website owner needs to generate a Certificate Signing Request (CSR) on their server, which is then used by a Certificate Authority (CA) to create a data structure that matches the website owner’s private key without exposing it.

Once the SSL certificate is issued by a reliable CA, it is essential to understand the different types of SSL certificates available and the process of obtaining one. In the following subsections, we will explore the various types of SSL certificates and the steps to obtain an SSL certificate for your website.

Types of SSL Certificates

SSL certificates come in a range of options depending on validation levels and domain coverage. Based on domain coverage, SSL certificates can be issued for a single domain, multiple subdomains, or multiple domains. Furthermore, SSL certificates can be issued with domain, organization, and extended validation levels, which vary according to the level of scrutiny or background checks.

Understanding and selecting the right type of SSL certificate for your website is crucial to ensure the desired level of security and trust. It is essential to consider factors such as the number of domains and subdomains you need to secure and the level of validation required based on your website’s purpose and target audience.

Obtaining an SSL Certificate

Now that you know the different types of SSL certificates, it’s time to obtain one for your website. Some providers, like Cloudflare, offer free SSL certificates for businesses, which can be activated on a website protected by Cloudflare with just a few clicks. However, if you choose to obtain an SSL certificate from another CA, be prepared to follow their specific guidelines and requirements.

Once you have your SSL certificate, you may need to set it up on your origin server as well. After installing the SSL certificate, update the settings in your website’s dashboard to use HTTPS, ensuring a secure connection between your website and its visitors.

SSL vs. TLS: Understanding the Differences

Although SSL and TLS are closely related, there are some essential differences to note. As mentioned earlier, SSL is the predecessor of TLS, and TLS is the newer and more secure version of SSL. The main reason for the change in name from SSL to TLS was the involvement of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) in the development of the new standard, as opposed to Netscape, which developed SSL.

In essence, TLS is an improved version of SSL, offering better security and performance for online communications. Despite the differences, the terms are often used interchangeably, causing confusion among users. However, regardless of the terminology, the critical aspect is that both SSL and TLS provide secure and encrypted connections for internet users.

The Connection Between SSL and HTTPS

The connection between SSL and HTTPS lies in their roles in securing online communications. HTTPS is a secure version of the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP), which is used to transfer data over the internet. When a website installs and configures an SSL certificate, it can run on HTTPS, creating a secure connection with a web server.

To determine whether a website is using SSL, look for an HTTPS web address, which indicates that the site is using the SSL protocol to protect user activity and provide a secure browsing experience. By implementing SSL and running on HTTPS, website owners can enhance their website’s security, protect sensitive user information, and establish trust with their visitors.

Implementing SSL on Your Website

Implementing SSL on your website might seem like a daunting task, but with the right guidance and tools, it can be a seamless process. The first step is to obtain an SSL certificate from a reliable CA, as discussed in previous sections.

Once you have your SSL certificate, you need to add it to your website and configure your web server to work with it. For specific website platforms like WordPress, implementing SSL can be even more straightforward by using plugins and adjusting settings in the dashboard.

In the following subsection, we will provide detailed instructions for adding SSL to WordPress websites.

Adding SSL to WordPress Websites

For WordPress websites, implementing SSL can be a breeze with the help of plugins like Really Simple SSL, which takes care of all the technical aspects of adding SSL to your website. Once you have installed the SSL certificate, update the settings in your WordPress dashboard to use HTTPS, ensuring a secure connection between your website and its visitors.

By following these simple steps, you can quickly add SSL to your WordPress website, providing a secure browsing experience for your visitors and reaping the benefits of improved SEO and user trust.

The Impact of SSL on SEO and User Trust

Installing an SSL certificate on your website can have a significant impact on both SEO and user trust. Websites with SSL certificates have an edge over those without in search engine rankings, as SSL is considered a ranking factor by major search engines like Google. Additionally, SSL helps establish trust with your visitors by ensuring the website is secure and trustworthy, and by avoiding any “not secure” warnings that might deter users from engaging with your site.

Visitors are more likely to trust and interact with websites displaying the padlock icon or HTTPS in their URL, indicating that the site is secured with SSL or TLS. By implementing SSL on your website, you can not only improve your search engine rankings but also build trust with your visitors, ultimately leading to better user engagement and conversion rates.

In-Depth Look at SSL Protocols and Processes

To truly appreciate the intricacies of SSL, let’s take an in-depth look at the SSL protocols and processes that secure communication between two entities. These protocols include the Record Protocol, Handshake Protocol, Change-Cipher Protocol, and Alert Protocol.

The Record Protocol is used to wrap up higher-level protocols and provides fundamental security services such as data integrity, data origin authentication, and optional data confidentiality. The Handshake Protocol, on the other hand, is used to establish secure connections between client and server, allowing for authentication of both sides.

The Change-Cipher Protocol is a part of the SSL record protocol and is used to copy the pending state into the current state. Lastly, the Alert Protocol is used to communicate SSL-related alerts to the other party, ensuring that both sides are aware of any potential issues or changes in the secure connection.


In conclusion, SSL plays a crucial role in ensuring the security of online communications by providing a secure connection between a web server and a browser. As the foundation for internet security protocols, SSL has evolved into the more advanced TLS, offering better security and performance for internet users. Implementing SSL on your website is essential for protecting sensitive user information, improving SEO rankings, and establishing trust with your visitors.

By understanding the history, importance, and technical aspects of SSL, as well as the process of obtaining and implementing an SSL certificate, you can take the necessary steps to secure your website and provide a safe browsing experience for your visitors. Remember that in today’s digital world, security and trust are paramount. So don’t wait any longer – take action now and implement SSL on your website to reap the benefits of a secure and trustworthy online presence.

How to stay safe online:

  • Practice Strong Password Hygiene: Use a unique and complex password for each account. A password manager can help generate and store them. In addition, enable two-factor authentication (2FA) whenever available.
  • Invest in Your Safety: Buying the best antivirus for Windows 11 is key for your online security. A high-quality antivirus like Norton, McAfee, or Bitdefender will safeguard your PC from various online threats, including malware, ransomware, and spyware.
  • Be Wary of Phishing Attempts: Be cautious when receiving suspicious communications that ask for personal information. Legitimate businesses will never ask for sensitive details via email or text. Before clicking on any links, ensure the sender's authenticity.
  • Stay Informed. We cover a wide range of cybersecurity topics on our blog. And there are several credible sources offering threat reports and recommendations, such as NIST, CISA, FBI, ENISA, Symantec, Verizon, Cisco, Crowdstrike, and many more.

Happy surfing!

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are the most frequently asked questions.

What is the secure socket layer SSL?

Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) is a standard security protocol that enables encrypted communication between a web server and a web browser. SSL uses both symmetric and asymmetric cryptography to create a secure connection, allowing data to be transmitted safely over the internet.

It also provides server authentication and client authentication.

What is a secure socket layer (with example)?

Secure Socket Layer (SSL) is an encryption protocol used to secure communication between two machines or devices operating over the internet or an internal network. An example of this is when SSL is used to protect data being sent from a web browser to a web server, turning a website’s address from HTTP to HTTPS.

This ‘S’ in HTTPS stands for secure, indicating that the channel is encrypted and protected from eavesdropping and tampering.

What is SSL and why it is used?

Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) is a technology designed to keep sensitive information secure when sent over the internet. It creates an encrypted connection between a web server and a web browser, ensuring that any data sent, such as payment details or confidential information, is kept safe and secure from prying eyes.

How does Secure Sockets Layer work?

Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) works by establishing an encrypted link between a user’s browser and the website they are accessing. This secure connection is established through a combination of public and private keys which encode and decode data sent across the connection, allowing for secure transmission of sensitive information.

With SSL, users can rest assured that their private data remains safe and secure.

Author: Tibor Moes

Author: Tibor Moes

Founder & Chief Editor at SoftwareLab

Tibor is a Dutch engineer and entrepreneur. He has tested security software since 2014.

Over the years, he has tested most of the best antivirus software for Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS, as well as many VPN providers.

He uses Norton to protect his devices, CyberGhost for his privacy, and Dashlane for his passwords.

This website is hosted on a Digital Ocean server via Cloudways and is built with DIVI on WordPress.

You can find him on LinkedIn or contact him here.

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