Every possible angle of internet indemnity businesses seek is usually based off data integrity, and where most dollars seem to flock towards. One facet many businesses of medium size tend to forego, however, is the need of secure communication between customers and web servers, especially during the final sales page. The standard for such security is measured with secure sockets layer technology, an ingenious method of taking packets of information and sending them between customer and server in various hexadecimal formats so hackers cannot make out what information is being traded. To enlighten the layman, we’ll delve into the world of SSL and TLS, the two syncopated security protocols which speak fluently between browser and server to enhance the total buying, or simple browsing, experience.
What SSL Is
From technical standpoints, secure sockets layer is simply taking personal information, such as credit cards, social security numbers and other pieces of sensitive data, and encrypting them using layers of hexadecimal coding which only the receiving web server can unencrypt and identify. Generally speaking, the higher numbers of bits which are available for SSL keys, the more layers of encryption are offered. All browsers have adopted SSL technology, especially for any transactions across multiple sites which tend to pass through several servers simultaneously. Customers identify SSL indemnification through a small padlock either in browser bar or in lower portion of browser window, depending on which version of IE or Firefox is being used. One major goal of these certificates, of course, is controlling further reputation damages which occur when buying experiences go south.
SSL software, or ‘keys’, are already written into every major browser. When businesses purchase hosting services and know they’ll transact using in-house payment processing services, SSL certificates will be installed on the receiving server, too, which makes hijacking information nearly impossible unless your computer has been compromised via internet connection. Several companies which people tend to use for trusted secure sockets layer certificate keys include:
- Starfield Technologies
- GoDaddy (sells their Turbo SSL which is actually issued by Starfield)
Common SSL Technical Terms
As with any programming schema or technical aspect of our internet life, those who work to secure our connections, test SSL and program servers to require secure access to webpages have specific verbiage which is commonly spoken amongst techies. Some of these SSL-related terms are below:
- Internet Information Services (IIS) – The general web services module which supports the secure protocols of servers, i.e. HTTPS, FTPS, SMTP, IMAP. By default, installations of Windows on servers and local computers do not have IIS turned on.
- Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) – When SSL has been enabled on receiving websites’ servers, HTTPS is automatically turned on. HTTPS is not a separate protocol by itself.
- Certificate Authorities (CA) – The actual entity responsible for issuing encrypted keys for servers and website security usage. Generally called ‘trusted 3rd parties’ on many business sites, these companies guaranty the business and consumer usually through identification of company name on SSL certificate.
- Public –Key Infrastructure (PKI) – The basic set of governing principles of SSL-issuing authorities which have the ability to revoke, store and issue digital certificates.
- Validation Authority (VA) – A third party to PKI authorities which basically validate the certificate as authentic, sometimes used in place of CA.
- Central Directory (CD) – Place where keys can be stored and indexed which is always secure.
How SSL Protects Businesses
The actual protection of business interests comes, realistically, in the form of protecting customers. Since multiple layers of encrypted information will protect your business from having payments lifted during checkout processes, customers can avoid unnecessary legal action against you should their credit card information become compromised during the payment process, or while stored on your servers. SSL also protects businesses from fraudulent transactions to some degree, especially when using third-party payment processing software in your shopping cart. This is done through AVS, or address verification system, which can generally match your customers’ credit card address with their current IP to assure they’re within safe parameters – if you live in Sacramento, for example, the likelihood you’d want new electronics shipped to Nairobi, Kenya is pretty rare and will raise fraud flags.
All told, without the lockdown security that SSL certificates provide, you’d probably have no business transactions occurring online, nor would customers ever trust spending money online with you.
Installing Secure Sockets Layer On Your Own
Simply identified as a text file which communicates between end users’ browsers and your server, installation of SSL onto your own web server really depends on which platform is being used; although literally hundreds of server OS’s are available, we’ll cover the major players: Tomcat, Microsoft Exchange Server and Apache. Apache, MES and Tomcat will have separate instructions for each one. We’ve briefly described below the steps for setting up your SSL on multiple server platforms since the general idea is the same.
1. Download Your SSL Certificate From Provider
Your secure certificate will usually contain your domain name and have some form of extension, depending on the provider. The key will be a text file and usually will be: domain.extension or something like that. You will only receive access to your certificate after providing CSR, or certificate signing request, from your server provider.
2. Locate Instructions For Your Server
Various servers will have different methods of installation; since an article relevant to the several dozen possible configurations wouldn’t prove fruitful, here are some places where instructions exist per server:
Literally hundreds of resources are available to assist you – even your ISP would have proper technical documentations which would assist in setting your SSL properly.
Once you’ve managed to setup all files, tweak your server to handle secure requests and have your shopping cart matching the certificate file, it’s time for testing. The best means for testing is either find different IP to reach your site from, or simply ask friends from abroad to access your site. Perhaps setup mock debit cards to check how each page responds. Whichever method works for you best, make darn sure you try some method before your customer lands on unsecured areas intended to be SSL-enabled. Should your tests pass with flying colors, you’ll need no further instructions; if any connection failures occur or pages aren’t secure, make sure you tweak the server to include all website areas where you believe secure information needs SSL technology.
Secure sockets layers are perhaps the saving grace of all internet transactions, and have become the signal of trust when online shoppers have visited your website with intentions of making purchases. The main proprietary methods of how secure socket layers technology protects business around the world goes back to SSL basics – making sure every packet of information is encrypted to elude potential hackers. While many businesses simply use trusted third-party shopping carts for transacting, or even use PayPal, the entire process must still remain secure for the customers to feel totally protected from hacker harms.
If you need further information on installation of SSL certificate files onto your web servers or simply want to know the various freelance certifications for obtaining work in SSL fields, the linkage above proved helpful for thousands of businesses like yourself, and should prove useful to you as well.
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