RAPIDSSL (by GEOTRUST)
You often hear you need “SSL” to make your retail web page secure, you may not know what SSL actually does for your site.
SSL is the acronym for Secure Sockets Layer, a protocol developed by
Netscape. SSL is used to transmit private information over the Internet,
and uses two keys to encrypt or code the data. You most commonly see
SSL on web sites that accept credit cards. You can tell when a site is
secured by SSL if the connection starts with “https” rather than “http.”
What are the Two Keys?
The two keys are the private and pubic keys needed to transmit data over
the SSL protocol. When data is encrypted, the program uses one key to
encrypt the data. The other key — it can work both ways — decrypts the
data. If the server sends a public key to encrypt the data, the correct
private key from the SSL protocol must decrypt the data. The longer the
key — or the more bits in the key, the harder it is to manually decrypt
What Else Does an SSL-Encrypted Message Tell You?
Since the protocol creates a pair of keys for each message, only you and
the person you are sending the information to has the keys. You may not
personally know the person receiving the information, but you know that
only that person can decrypt the message since you and the person you
are sending the message to are the only two people with the keys.
How Does the Key Know Which Two People Are Sending Information?
The keys use a certificate. A root certificate, which contains
information about the person you are sending information to — in this
example, we will use a retailer — the retailer has a certificate on its
server. The certificate has the retailer’s information, such as its
name, email address, distinguished name and other information about the
web site. The certificate contains the public key. When you send
information to the retailer, your information is encrypted with the
private key. Only the retailer with the proper public key can decrypt
While there is more to the way the secure server certificate works, this
is the basics of it, and you know your information is protected as long
as you see the “https” in the address line. Of course, nothing is
certain except death and taxes, so there is a possibility that a key
could be broken, but it is unlikely, especially on a site with 256-bit
encryption — remember, the longer the key, the harder it is to break.