The cybersecurity landscape has witnessed a growing number of cyber threats lately. The global pandemic that led businesses to adapt to the remote and hybrid work environment has a significant contribution to the increasing cases of cybercrimes. Phishing, malware, virus, and ransomware attacks have become common. In fact, statistics suggest that 1 in every 2 Americans experienced an account breach in 2021. Learn more about TLS and SSL two important encryption protocols.
With so many websites becoming victims of cybercriminals, it goes without saying that every business requires advanced protection against these threats. It’s important, not only because customers trust businesses that offer a secure channel for communication, but Google has mandated security protocols for all websites, be it a simple blog or an eCommerce website.
TLS (Transport Layer Security) and SSL (Secure Socket Layer) are the best examples of security practices that encrypt the information transmitted between your web application and server, protecting merchant’s and customer’s interest. It’s no longer optional. Due to the risk involved in sharing confidential information on unsecured websites, merchants are securing their web pages with SSL or TLS certificates. We’ve discussed each option in detail below. Let’s take a look.
TLS and SSL: What Are They and Why Do You Need Them?
Both are security protocols that serve pretty much the same function—encrypting the data transmitted between your web application and server.
These certificates ensure that the details your customers share on your website, especially their credit card numbers, name, and other personal details, remain confidential and are transferred to the server in an encrypted form. This ensures that no third party can access this data without the decryption key.
You might wonder which certificate is better and if you need one or both. Sometimes, the terms SSL and TLS are used interchangeably. While they have similar functions, there are some key differences between the two. In this post, we have mentioned the differences between the two so you can figure out which is more suitable for your website.
What is SSL (Secure Socket Layer)?
Secure Socket Layer is a web security protocol that was launched in the 1990s with its upgraded version released in 1995. Since its release, the developers have upgraded SSL. The certificate is used to encrypt data using public and private keys, building safe communication channels between servers and your website.
The popularity of this technology vanished when SSL 3.0 was released in 1996. Since then SSL has become outdated and the TLS is embraced.
What is TLS (Transport Layer Security)?
As mentioned previously, TLS serves the same function as SSL, but it’s an advanced and upgraded version of the latter. It also comes with a few modern improvements that help fight the latest security threats more efficiently. However, the main function of the Transport Layer Security protocol remains the same. It authenticates and encrypts the data transferred between two channels, ensuring safe communication on the internet. Simply put, it’s the successor to SSL.
TLS also uses public and private keys to implement data encryption. Every time someone visits your web application or website, the TLS handshake is initiated. This means the security keys that encrypt the data transmission between their browser and your server are secured. The handshake is used to determine the TLS validity. If the browser can’t validate the TLS certificate, the user gets a message saying the website is not secure. If the browser validates the certificate, a secure channel is formed between the user and the website, encrypting the transmission between the two.
Transport Layer Security was released back in 1999 and got upgraded many times. TLS 1.1 was launched in 2006 and 1.2 in 2008. Its latest version was released in 2018, i.e. TLS 1.3. Its previous versions, i.e. TLS 1.0 and 1.1 are no longer used.
TLS and SSL: Difference Between Them
TLS encrypts the data and develops a secure means of communication between servers and web applications, just like SSL. So, how are they different from the SSL, and why is the change in the name? The developers renamed the protocol to TLS to indicate that it’s no longer associated with the SSL developer Netscape.
- Name: You may have noticed that most web developers, website owners, and businesses that sell SSL certificates do not use the term TLS. They rather sell it by its original name, since it gained immense popularity in the 90s. Even though the original protocol that’s implemented in today’s time is the Transport Layer Security, people call it the SSL certificate.
- Performance: Apart from the name, the difference between these security protocols lies in their performance. Websites encrypted with TLS certificates load fast, as the protocol is designed considering the customer’s experience. In addition, TLS comes with some added protection protocols. The increased performance is because of the quicker handshake in the TLS. The process was more detailed and slow in the Secure Socket Layer protocol. Since the steps involved in validating the TLS handshake are relatively fewer, the process completes quickly and your visitors can access the website within seconds.
- Message Authentication: Both security protocols test the integrity of the messages through the Message Authentication Code or MAC, which is attached to each message. Although both security protocols use MAC, the algorithms used to generate these codes differ in each. SSL, for instance, uses the MD5 algorithm, which is considered outdated. TLS involves hash-based message authentication, offering increased security.
Other than these, the cipher suites (the algorithms used to generate keys that encrypt data between web servers and applications) are upgraded in TLS to deal with emerging security concerns.
You cannot implement SSL certificates any longer as they are not in use. Since the launch of the TLS, i.e. the SSL 3.0, the Secure Socket Layers are outdated. TLS certificates are considered the industry standard today.
Is SSL/TLS Certificate Mandatory?
As far as the importance of these certificates is concerned, all websites need these certificates. Fortunately, you don’t need to buy them separately, as most website builders offer an SSL certificate in their web development package. Here are some common reasons every website needs an SSL certificate.
Safe Mode of Communication
The main purpose of the TLS/SSL certification is to ensure protection from man-in-the-middle (MitM) attacks. A hacker could intercept the data transmitted between a web application and a server, giving attackers easy and quick access to confidential data. Since tons of data, including customers’ sensitive details, is processed every day, it’s become important to secure the communication channel for maximum protection. A data breach can cost your business a significant amount. Add to the damage to your reputation, and you will know how a lack of encryption can shut your business.
Search Engine Ranking
SSL certificates have become a standard in nearly all search engines. Google, especially, prioritizes websites with an SSL certificate to ensure that its users do not visit an unsecured website or become a victim of a data breach. Due to the growing number of data breaches on the internet, search engines are making it mandatory for all websites to implement encryption technology through a valid SSL/TLS certificate. Likewise, Google Chrome requires websites to have an SSL certificate in order to be accessed through its browser.
Build Customer Trust
The benefits of an SSL certificate go beyond your SERP ranking. It builds your customers’ trust in your brand, as people tend to buy from a secure website. When someone visits your website, they will receive a message “your connection is not private” or “the connection is not secure”, which might drive them away from your page.
People take their security seriously, especially those visiting an eCommerce store with the intention of making a purchase. You don’t want to lose your potential customers due to security concerns. Not securing your webpage with an SSL certificate won’t just affect your search engine ranking, but it can ruin your business’ reputation. Your visitors will never return to your website, let alone make a purchase.
Which Among the SSL and TLS Should You Use?
As mentioned above, you can only use TLS certification, as SSL is no longer in use. While the Transport Security Layer certificate goes by the name “SSL”, it isn’t actually an SSL certificate.
Securing your website with a TLS protocol is your best bet if you want to enjoy ultimate protection from cyber threats and security breaches.
That was all about the differences between SSL and TLS. As discussed above, these security certificates hold great value and are a must for every website. They protect your customers’ interests and prevent any major security breaches. But these certificates alone are not sufficient for ensuring maximum website protection.
You must implement other security protocols to strengthen your payment infrastructure and build a robust webpage. Make sure to check if the website builder or the hosting company offers an SSL certificate before working with them. If it’s not already included in the package, you can buy an SSL certificate separately. It’s also mandatory to prevent the risk of cyber threats.