What Is An SSL Certificate? Types Of SSL Certificates Explained

Cyber Security is one of the biggest challenges to this overgrowing internet world. More people use the internet these days, and this increases the risk of getting victimized by cybercrimes.

SSL helps to mitigate cyber threats to some extent. So don’t you feel it’s worth being aware of What is SSL (Secure Sockets Layer), how SSL works and having a clear understanding of different types of SSL Certificates? If yes, let’s get into this article.

Types Of SSL Certificates

No one loves websites that are not secure. Google too. As per a recent circular, Google no longer encourages websites that do not have an SSL certificate.

Earlier it was damn expensive to buy an SSL certificate. But now it became very cheap with so many companies offering SSL certificates. Few CDN ( Content Delivery networks) offer free SSL out of the box. So there is no reason for any website not to have an SSL certificate.

SSL is a common term among website owners and developers. Though we know that we need SSL for our websites, many of us don’t have a clear understanding of what SSL is and the different types of SSL Certificates available in the market. In this article, we will try to know more about this.

What is an SSL certificate

SSL is the standard security technology for establishing an encrypted link between a web server and a browser. This link ensures that all data passed between the web server and browser remain private

Let’s understand SSL with some practical examples.

For example, if we visit any website and try to fill out any form to contact the webmaster, we submit some pieces of information.

Those pieces of information can be our name, phone number, or could be your banking details. If the visited website does not have an SSL, the data we send using the contact form or any other modes is compromised.

Types Of SSL Certificates

A hacker can steal data in many ways, but the most common type is putting a code in the webserver without even the website owner’s knowledge.

Those codes spy on users when they submit any information and send the data back to the hacker. All these things happen within a fraction of seconds, and it’s almost impossible to detect that someone is stealing data.

Now let’s take the scenario if we are visiting a website that has an SSL certificate. As I said before, an SSL creates an encrypted connection between the browser and the web server, so when we submit any information, there are very few chances that a hacker can steal that information.

It is next to impossible to break the encryption. Well, SSL cannot completely protect data, but it reduces the chances of getting data compromised. The level of securities varies based on the encryption level we choose.

What an SSL can do?

  • Secure financial transactions
  • Encrypts data transfers over the internet.
  • Prevent website crash
  • Build trust among users

How to know if a website has an SSL?

Well, there are numerous ways we can verify if a website has SSL or not. Those are listed as below.

URL starts with HTTPS

Websites having an SSL certificate have an URL starting with HTTPS://. For example, this website has an SSL certificate and it has the URL HTTPS:// riansblog.com

A little padlock icon in the URL bar

A green padlock icon in the URL bar indicates that the website has an SSL certificate. Well, that icon has a different meaning based on the type of icon you see in the URL bar.

Types Of SSL Certificates

Using online tools

Several online tools can validate if a website has an SSL or not. Those tools even give insights into the type of SSL, certifying authority, and validity. Here are some of the online tools available in the market.

Types Of SSL Certificates

How to verify if a website has a valid SSL certificate?

This is interesting even though websites have HTTPS:// before the URL and have a Padlock icon, you can not be sure that the SSL certificate is valid. To check if a website has a valid SSL certificate, we can follow the below steps.

For Chrome Browser

View-> Developer Tool -> Go to “Security” Tab -> Click On “View Certificate”

Types Of SSL Certificates

If the certificate is valid it will show the certificate information.

Key abbreviations used in an SSL Certificate

  • SSL – Secure Sockets Layer
  • DV– Domain Validation
  • OV– Organization Validation
  • EV– Extended Validation
  • CSR– Certificate Signing Request
  • CA– Certificate Authority

Types of SSL certificates

Types of SSL can be categorized broadly based on the following criteria.

  • Encryption /Validation Level
  • Number of domain / Sub Domain

Encryption / Validation level SSL certificate is further classified into three categories.

  • Domain Validation
  • Organization Validation
  • Extended Validation

SSL types based on a number of domains are classified categories.

  • Single Domain
  • Multi-Domain
  • Wildcard Domain

Domain Validation

Domain Validation offers the lowest level of encryption. Usually, the CA verifies the domain ownership and issues a certificate.

Please make a note that the domain Validation certificate only secures the particular domain, not any subdomain. For example, if you buy a DV certificate for riansclub.com, then the same certificate can not be used to protect mail.riansclub.com.

  • Encryption level-Low
  • Mode of verification-By adding a DNS entry or uploading a file to root supplied by certifying authority.
  • Browser Indication-A small green lock icon is shown next to the URL.
  • Turn-Around time-Usually a Day.

Organizational Validation

In the case of organizational validation, the certifying authority verifies the organization’s existence along with the domain validation.

  • Encryption level-Medium
  • Mode of verification-The CA first verifies the domain ownership and then verifies the legal existence of the company.
  • Browser Indication-A small green lock icon along with the company name.
  • Turn-Around time-Usually a week.

Extended validation

This is the highest level of SSL that anyone can buy. Along with domain validation and company legal existence, this type of validation also checks its physical address. If everything is verified, the certifying authority issue an extended validation SSL certificate.

  • Encryption level-High
  • Mode of verification-The CA checks the company’s physical address along with domain validation and legal existence
  • Browser Indication-A small green lock icon along with the company name and location.
  • Turn-Around time-Few weeks
Types Of SSL Certificates
Image Credit: About SSL

Single Domain SSL Certificate

As the name suggests, the single-domain SSL certificate will protect only one domain. What that means, if I buy an SSL certificate for riansclub.com, I can not use it to protect forum.riansclub.com.

Wildcard SSL certificate

This type of SSL certificate will project the purchased domain along with all subdomains. For example, if I buy an SSL certificate for riansclub.com, I can use the same certificate to protect forum.riansclub.com, mail.riansclub.com, etc.

Types Of SSL Certificates
Image Credit: Quora

Multi-Domain /Unified / SAN SSL certificate

On top of a single domain and wildcard domain SSL certificate, this type of SSL certificate protects multiple domains.

For example, If I buy an SSL certificate for riansclub.com, then I can also use it for mail.riansclub.com, forum.riansclub.com, riansclub. in, riansclub.net. etc.

Free SSL certificate is worth trying?

Most of the free SSL certificate offered by many certifying authority is of domain Validation type. It offers a basic level of security without any bells and whistles.

Free SSL is suitable for a personal blog or static website. You can read about the best 5 free SSL providers in the below article.

Let’s Encrypt is one of the leading free SSL certificate providers. Usually nowadays with all shared hosting, Lets Encrypt comes preinstalled in the webserver.

What is a self-signed SSL certificate?

Instead of getting an SSL certificate from a trusted certifying authority, the webmaster can sign their SSL certificate since the certificate is self-signed, so there is no cost involved.

Although it provides the same security level as domain Validation, SSL certificate self-signed certificates are not good for public websites. Many browsers do not recognize this type of Certificate and give an error or warning.

How can I get SSL for my website?

Before buying an SSL certificate, we need to decide which type of SSL we need to buy. Below is the matrix that may help you to choose.

This is the mare basic requirement. You can always buy the most valuable and safest SSL for any website.

  • WordPress Blog: Domain Validation or Organization Validation SSL
  • Static Websites: Domain Validation SSL
  • Corporate Website: Extended Validation
  • E-commerce Website: Extended Validation
  • Finance Websites: Extended Validation
  • Social Networking: Extended Validation
  • Forum Website: Organisation Validation

Talking about whether we choose a single Domain or multi-domain SSL depends on the size of your business. The cost varies based on that. Once you decide on the type of SSL, you can choose from the following vendors.

Factor to consider before choosing SSL certifying authority

Although it largely depends on business requirements but following basic features we should always consider before buying an SSL certificate.

  • Brand
  • Number of years in business
  • Site seal
  • Trust level
  • Turnaround time
  • The number of domains included.
  • Server licensing
  • Browser support
  • Mobile support
  • Customer support

If you love to know about Types of SSL certificates in video format then this video in Youtube might be helpful.

Video Credit: Messer Studios

Conclusion: Types Of SSL Certificates

The latest search engines’ latest algorithm clearly stated that an SSL certificate is a must to rank websites.

If we don’t have, we will have to be out of business. I tried to give a clear understanding of What SSL is and the Types of SSL. If you still have questions, write in the comment section, and I will be happy to answer.

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Rajib is the Co-Founder and the Lead Product Analyst of RiansTech. A BTech in Mechanical Engineering and a veteran in the Home Appliance industry with over 17 years of experience in designing appliances for industry leaders like GE and Whirlpool. He also runs a successful niche blog (RiansClub) on Mechanical Engineering