The internet has undoubtedly made it easy for shoppers to buy things online with a single click of a mouse. From filling their carts to making payments during the checkout, you can execute any transaction online easily. However, that has also created many opportunities for scammers to hack into users’ devices and steal their private and sensitive data, such as credit card details or customers’ contact.
To enhance the security of online transactions, many security protocols, like SSL certification and TLS are used. TLS or Transport Layer Security is an encryption service that secures the communication that takes place over the internet. All kinds of communication, including emails and messaging, are protected by this security protocol.
With the growing cases of cybercrimes in the world, TLS is no longer optional. In fact, if you are running a commercial website on the internet without this security layer, there’s a good chance your website’s ranking will be affected. Search engines, especially Google, have made it mandatory for all websites to use advanced security protocols to protect their visitors’ confidential data and offer secure services on the web. In addition to the websites, payment gateways are also integrated with Transport Layer Security, as transferring payments through an unprotected gateway can lead to fraud.
So, what exactly is Transport Layer Security? How is it different from SSL? And why do you need it? Let’s find out.
Transport Layer Security Explained
TLS refers to the security protocol that secures the communication taking place between the servers and applications. The data transferred from points A to B is vulnerable to security risks. A hacker can misuse the technology to gain unauthorized access to the communication between the host and the server. As mentioned earlier, TLS has become a common practice for all website owners, app developers, and those sharing confidential data over the internet.
One of the biggest concerns for a merchant running eCommerce business operations is protecting customers’ confidential data. As they enter their card details on the payment page and submit the data for processing, it is the merchant’s responsibility to ensure that users’ data is protected.
How It Was Developed
You may have heard of the terms SSL and TLS used interchangeably for encryption technology. The history of TLS dates back to the SSL protocol, which was launched by Netscape back in the 1990s. TLS started as the 3.1 version of the Secure Sockets Layer, but its name was changed, so that people can know this new security protocol has nothing to do with the Netscape.
The protocol was introduced to the security market in 1999 and since its inception, the technology has witnessed many changes. Today, TLS is one of the finest and most robust security protocols that’s updated regularly to ensure protection against emerging cyber crimes. These updates were launched as new versions of the protocol.
Today, you can find a vast array of TLS iterations, including TLS 1.0, 1.1, 1.2, and 1.3, which were launched in 2018. The first two versions are not in use. Even the 1.3 version of the protocol is not used much. More than 90% of the merchants have implemented TLS 1.2.
How is TLS Different From SSL and HTTPS
TLS is the updated security model of the SSL. Unlike the Secured Sockets Layer, the last version of the TLS was launched pretty recently. The SSL’s last update dates back to 1996. The terms often confuse merchants and web developers, as both are security protocols and share certain similarities, like encrypting the data transmitted between two web applications or the host and the server.
However, TLS offers a higher level of protection and advanced security features than SSL. The protocol is also efficient and reliable in terms of communication speed and security. The technology doesn’t slow down the transaction. It improves your website performance while strengthening its security.
Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) is used for file transfers. It provides users with a platform for transmitting information across the web. HTTPS, on the other hand, refers to the TLS certificate. It indicates that the website you are accessing is safe and uses encryption technology to protect customers’ data. It’s important for all websites—be it a simple blog or an eCommerce platform, to have a TLS certification. Simply put, HTTP uses encryption technology (TLS) to offer data protection.
Each security protocol has one thing in common. They fight man-in-the-middle attacks and prevent hackers from accessing the information that was supposed to be delivered to the target recipient.
Reasons Your Business Needs TLS
The global DDoS attacks increased by 74% in 2022. The statistics clearly indicate the need for implementing TLS security for their websites. When it comes to web security, Transport Layer Security is considered highly effective and one of the biggest fraud prevention tools. Google puts websites with TLS security on priority, as the technology protects merchants from data leaks, scams, and other security issues.
Of all cyber crimes, man-in-the-middle (MitM) attacks are extremely common. It is when a hacker gets unauthorized access to the data exchanged between a user and the web application. For example, the credit card details of the customers that they used to complete the transaction could be misused by a scammer through MitM.
Here’s how TLS strengthens your website security
- Authentication: Impersonation has become a common practice among attackers. That’s, in fact, one of the easiest ways for a scammer to get quick access to the customers’ data. To ensure protection against online impersonation, TLS uses an authentication protocol, which verifies the user’s details and confirms whether they are the right recipient or sender.
- Encryption: Encryption secures your data by converting it into secure codes. The information can only be decoded by the target recipient. So, even if the attacker conducts the MitM attack, the information they steal will be useless, as they can’t read the data without the decryption key.
The role of the TLS is to protect the data in transit. It maintains the integrity of the data, ensuring that the data was not tampered with on the way to the recipient. The security is ideal for preventing man-in-the-middle and DDoS attacks.
Pros and Cons of TLS Certification
While the TLS is mandatory for all web applications and users conducting their eCommerce operations online, there are certain drawbacks of the Transport Layer Security you shouldn’t overlook. Here are a few.
- It enables encryption, where the data is converted into unreadable text. This can also be accessed and read by the target recipient.
- The security prevents MitM attacks and any kind of scam that puts the business at risk of security breaches.
- Having a TLS certificate affects your search engine ranking, as Google prioritizes businesses that are secured with encryption technology. This is done to protect users from sharing their confidential data on an unsecured website.
- A TLS certificate indicates secure web operations. Websites that operate without this layer of protection are shown as unsecured in the search engine, driving users away from your websites.
- Registering for TLS can get challenging for web developers that don’t get this security protocol from their hosting provider.
- TLS can sometimes affect web performance, although the impact of this security protocol has been minimized to a great extent.
- As hackers have learned about the growing popularity of TLS, they are exploring the vulnerabilities in the protocol. There’s a possibility someone can bypass the TLS security and intercept communication between web servers and applications.
Does TLS Certificate Affect Your Website Performance?
The latest version of the security protocol has little to no impact on the website performance, although the TLS handshake does take up some time and storage. Fortunately, technology like “TLS False Start” can help reduce the latency effortlessly. The technology allows data transmission before the handshake. You can also use its Session Resumption technology, which is for web developers that have communicated previously, to transmit information using an abbreviated handshake.
These latest updates have made TLS fast and efficient with nearly zero impact on your website performance. Computational cost is also pretty low. If you want to ensure the fastest and most secure communication, you can upgrade to TLS 1.3, which shortens the TLS handshake process. With TLS 1.3, websites that have interacted before have zero-round trips, thus enabling faster and more streamlined communication between servers.
Nearly all reputable websites in search engines are protected with SSL certificates. With a vast majority of them using encryption technology, it’s obvious that every aspiring web developer or an eCommerce store owner needs to register for an SSL certificate to secure their websites and drive organic traffic.
Not just for the search engines and your website’s security, but TLS/SSL certificates are mandatory for businesses that want to establish their customer’s trust. If the TLS certificates are not included in your web hosting package, you may have to buy them separately for a small fee and install them on your servers.