What is Secured Socket Layer (SSL) and how does it safeguard your confidential online transactions?
Secured Sockets Layer is a protocol that transmits your communications over the Internet in an encrypted form. SSL ensures that the information is sent, unchanged, only to the server you intended to send it to. Online shopping sites frequently use SSL technology to safeguard your credit card information.
pronounced as separate letters) Short for Secure Sockets Layer, a protocol developed by Netscape for transmitting private documents via the Internet. SSL works by using a private key to encrypt data that's transferred over the SSL connection. Both Netscape Navigator and Internet Explorer support SSL, and many Web sites use the protocol to obtain confidential user information, such as credit card numbers.
By convention, URLs that require an SSL connection start with https: instead of http:. The protocol supports server and client authentication. The SSL protocol is application independent, allowing protocols like HTTP (HyperText Transfer Protocol), FTP (File Transfer Protocol), and Telnet to be layered on top of it transparently.
The SSL protocol maintains the security and integrity of the transmission channel by using encryption, authentication and message authentication codes.
Another protocol for transmitting data securely over the World Wide Web is Secure HTTP (S-HTTP). Whereas SSL creates a secure connection between a client and a server, over which any amount of data can be sent securely, S-HTTP is designed to transmit individual messages securely. SSL and S-HTTP, therefore, can be seen as complementary rather than competing technologies. Both protocols have been approved by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) as a standard.
The Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) governs the transport and routing of data over the Internet. Other protocols, such as the HyperText Transport Protocol (HTTP), Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP), or Internet Messaging Access Protocol (IMAP), run "on top of" TCP/IP in the sense that they all use TCP/IP to support typical application tasks such as displaying web pages or running email servers.
The SSL Handshake Protocol consists of two phases: server authentication and an optional client authentication. In the first phase, the server, in response to a client's request, sends its certificate and its cipher preferences. The client then generates a master key, which it encrypts with the server's public key, and transmits the encrypted master key to the server. The server recovers the master key and authenticates itself to the client by returning a message authenticated with the master key. Subsequent data is encrypted and authenticated with keys derived from this master key. In the optional second phase, the server sends a challenge to the client. The client authenticates itself to the server by returning the client's digital signature on the challenge, as well as its public-key certificate.
The SSL protocol runs above TCP/IP and below higher-level protocols such as HTTP or IMAP. It uses TCP/IP on behalf of the higher-level protocols, and in the process allows an SSL-enabled server to authenticate itself to an SSL-enabled client, allows the client to authenticate itself to the server, and allows both machines to establish an encrypted connection.