Q: What is SSL?
A: Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) is a protocol for enabling data encryption on the Internet and for helping web site users confirm the owner of the web site. SSL is most commonly used to protect communications between web browsers and servers. However, it is increasingly used for server to server communications and for web-based applications.
Q: What is encryption and why are there different levels?
A: Encryption is a mathematical process of coding and decoding information. The number of bits (40-bit, 56-bit, 128-bit, 256-bit) tells you the size of the key. Like a longer password, a larger key has more possible combinations. When an encrypted session is established, the encryption level is determined by the capability of the web browser, SSL certificate, web server, and client computer operating system.
Q: How do web site visitors know if a web site is using SSL?
A: When a browser connects to a secure site it retrieves the site's SSL certificate and checks that it has not expired, that it has been issued by a Certificate Authority the browser trusts and that it is being used by the web site for which it has been issued. If it fails on any one of these checks the browser will display a warning to the end user. If it succeeds, several security indicators are built into modern browsers to indicate that SSL is enabled. The beginning of the URL or web address changes from http:// to https:// A padlock on the browser window changes from open to closed The address bar will turn green and display the name of the web site owner when connecting to a web site protected by an Extended Validation SSL certificate. In addition, a trust mark such as the RapidSSL site seal may be added to web pages on a secure site.
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