SSL Certificates

SSL certificates, or Secure Socket Layer certificates helps provide security when processing or accepting credit card payments online. Keep reading for on what an SSL does for you, the differences between SSL certificates, and choosing an SSL certificate.

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SSL Certificates stands for "Secure Socket Layer" Certificates. It is the technology that enables secure online credit card transactions and communications. SSL encryption can be better or worse and the authority providing the certificate can be more or less trusted. Read on to find out more about SSL Certificates.

What Is SSL For?

SSL Certificates provide a private means of transmitting data that is encrypted for safety. It is used for log-ins, eCommerce, and transmission of sensitive data. It helps prevent fraud and identity theft. The SSL Certificate gives authenticated information about the owner of the certificate and enables encryption.

The operation of the SSL Certificate hinges on two keys, one public and one private. The public key encrypts information, while the private key deciphers it. The connection that allows a Web browser to connect to a secured domain is called a Secure Sockets Layer handshake, which authenticates both parties and establishes encryption with a unique identifier.

In addition, SSL Certificates provide a signal to your customers that you are working hard to protect them. Because your company's identity is authenticated in order for the certificate to be issued, people new to your website will be able to trust your identity. Because your SSL Certificate helps keep your customers' information safe, people can feel confident making purchases and/or sharing information for log-ins and other purposes.

Not All SSL Certificates Are Born Equal

The  SSL encryption is best provided by True 128-bit or 256-bit SSL certificates. But this strong encryption has not always been allowed. Because export of strong encryption from the US was prohibited prior to January, 2000, people purchased operating systems or browsers that only supported 40-bit and/or 56-bit encryption.

In these cases, only "Server Gated Cryptography" (SGC) on the web browser can enable the acceptance of the stronger encryption on an ongoing basis. Some other browsers and computers with older equipment or browsers that are not themselves 128-bit or 245-bit enabled will be temporarily enabled with the stronger encryption if and when they visit a website with an SGC-enabled SSL Certificate with encryption that is stronger because certificates with stronger encryption will adapt if the computer or browser can't handle the higher levels.

There are a number of Certification Authorities (CA's) for SSL Certificates. Not all of them provide the same quality SSL Certificate. They provide a range of levels of encryption And their authentication protocols are different. Web Trust compliance might look like a good way to judge the quality of CA's. But one Web Trust compliant certificate is not necessarily the equivalent of another. That's because Web Trust compliance is about the CA following its own procedures properly, not about adhering to any outside quality standards. Extended Validation (EV), however, is an external standard that requires an audit.

You may be able to use the CA's name along with the certification. For example, VeriSign offers SSL customers that use of its VeriSign SecuredĀ® Seal. Thawte has a Trusted Site Seal. With such a seal, a name that is known to your customers as trustworthy may be of use to you. Both of these companies offer EV SSL Certificates.

Choosing SSL Certificates

SSL Certificates are purchased for periods of one or more years. Here are things to consider when choosing SSL Certificates:

  • The reputation of the CA
  • The stringency of the authentication process
  • The encryption of the SSL Certificate to match your needs
  • Support for ongoing use

Here are some sample prices:



Number of Years



SSL Certificate 256-bit




SSL Certificate with EV




SSL Certificate 256-bit




SSL Certificate with EV



VeriSign additionally offers warranties - $100,000 for the lesser certificate, and $250,000 for the greater.

Related article: Accept Credit Cards Online