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How the SSL Protocol Changed the Internet

August 6, 2019 No Comments

Featured article by Ebbe Kernel, data mining researcher & cybersecurity writer

cyber security 2 300x170 How the SSL Protocol Changed the Internet

Today, cybersecurity is not optional, it’s mandatory. There have been many initiatives to secure the internet as a whole, including some moves by key stakeholders. One of these measures is the Secure Sockets Layer or SSL, which has become so prevalent that it now encompasses all online communication, from website SSL certificates to SSL proxies.

The Secure Sockets Layer or SSL is the underlying technology used to protect data transmissions online. It has been upgraded to Transport Layer Security (TLS), but people still call the technology SSL in general. When you see a padlock icon in the address bar, next to the site’s address, you know that you are browsing a secure site. In recent years, search engines like Google started flagging unsecured sites and ranking websites with better security measures higher in search results.

So, how did the SSL protocol change the internet? Is the internet a more secure place now?

Getting to Know SSL

SSL was first introduced in the early 1990s as a way to encrypt communication between servers and clients. Soon after it was introduced, the technology was made public under the control of Netscape before it was given to the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) to develop further.

The latest iteration of SSL is known as TLS, with the latest version being TLS 1.3. The encryption algorithm and the underlying technology are both more secure, allowing data transmissions to be fully protected while in transit.

There are two major benefits offered by SSL. First, it protects your data by using encryption. Data is encoded before it leaves one device, and then decoded when it reaches another. This means information theft is no longer possible since stolen data cannot be read without a valid encryption key.

The second benefit is authentication. Since SSL certificates are tied to specific domain names, servers, and organizations, you can check the authenticity of a website you are accessing by checking its SSL certificate.

In fact, checking the validity of a website’s SSL certificate is a must under certain circumstances. When you are about to enter personal details on a checkout form, for instance, you want to be extra certain that your data is sufficiently protected, and that you are entering your details on an authentic site.

SSL in Action

In the old days, SSL certificates were seen as expensive and rather inaccessible. Organizations that handled user information invested in them as a way to boost credibility and protect data from cyberattacks. Most sites, however, preferred to use the standard HTTP protocol to save money.

It was not until Let’s Encrypt began offering SSL certificates for free that the whole secure internet revolution really gained traction. Since a valid SSL certificate can be acquired for free, even personal websites can benefit from using an SSL certificate.

Now, everyone can access more websites through secure connections (HTTPS). Personal blogs, corporate websites, and eCommerce sites are utilizing SSL to make sure that data transmissions from and to their servers are protected. As a result of the SSL revolution, fewer cases of in-transit information theft have been reported. Malicious websites also cannot impersonate legitimate websites as easily as before.

SSL for Everyone

Of course, the use of Secure Sockets Layer isn’t limited to protecting websites. The protocol is also used in other scenarios. Apps now use SSL to make sure that the app-server communications are secure. SSL is also used to protect network connections.

You can now use a secure proxy to protect all data transmissions. Rather than connecting to websites or services directly, a layer of SSL proxies is added as an extra security measure. Your computer communicates directly to a secure proxy server, and the server will then handle communications with external nodes.

The use of SSL proxies made securing your data easier. You no longer have to worry about the encryption level offered by websites you visit since you always have data transmissions encrypted by the proxy server. You can also protect your privacy while using SSL proxies; the proxies hide your real IP address and other sensitive details.

More Utilization of SSL in the Future

The SSL revolution isn’t slowing down. If anything, it is speeding up. As mentioned at the beginning of this article, Google recently made SSL certificates mandatory. Sites that don’t have valid SSL certificates are marked insecure and have their search result rankings lowered.

Other stakeholders are moving in the same direction too. Let’s Encrypt now produces certificates for thousands of websites. Certificate generation can now be done automatically thanks to support from web apps like cPanel and EasyEngine.

Even premium SSL certificates are more accessible. You can get a valid SSL certificate for less than $10. Organization-level certificates, with validity checks and advanced protections, are now used by small and medium-sized businesses.

Since a secure website becomes mandatory, the whole internet is becoming a safer place. Yes, there are still a lot of cyberattacks to anticipate, but you have one less thing to worry about now that data transmissions are encrypted. Combined with measures like GDPR, cybersecurity can be improved by a substantial margin.

About the Author

Ebbe Kernel is the data mining researcher & cybersecurity writer. He believes in data power and everyone’s

freedom to become a self-starter. Ebbe can bereached online at info@ebbekernel.com .

SECURITY, SOCIAL BUSINESS

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