Different Types of SSL Certificates Explained
Every single day, websites are being hacked. According to Incapsula’s Global Bot Traffic Report, 56%of web traffic is generated from automated hacking tools like scrapers, spammers, impersonators, and bots. With this growing threat, it’s important for website owners to make website security a priority. The primary and most crucial step one can take towards website security is installing Secure Sockets Layer or SSL certificates. This certificate allows encrypted exchange of data between a server and the browser of the users. There are various types of SSL that are used by millions of websites to reduce the risk of data ending up in the wrong hands.
This blog will introduce you to different types of SSL certificates, but before that, let’s take a quick look at what an SSL certificate is.
What Is an SSL Certificate?
An SSL or Secure Socket Layer certificate provides encryption for data as it travels across the Internet to ensure the information exchange cannot be intercepted for malicious purposes. You can quickly identify if a website has an SSL certificate simply by looking at your browser’s address bar. If a website has an SSL certificate, the URL in the address bar will begin with HTTPS, not HTTP. Here the extra “s” stands for secure. Most browsers also show a “Lock” icon indicating that your connection is encrypted.
Types of SSL Certificates
Types of SSL certificates are categorized under two basic parameters, that are:
Validation– The level of validation a website admin goes through before receiving a certification from a Certificate Authority (CA). This validation may range from very low to very detailed. The higher the level of validation, the more authority a website will gain.
The number of domains it can be used for – Based on the number of domains you need to protect, you can either get a single-domain SSL certificate or one that protects multiple domains.
Now let’s get into the details of types of SSL certificates based on these parameters.
Types of SSL Certificates Based on Validation
All the SSL certificates provide the same encryption. However, the level of validation a Certificate Authority goes through to verify the website admin’s identity can vary. The extent of verification depends on the website’s scope and the type of data it requests from users. For e.g., an online store with an intricate payment system will require more validation than a website used solely for blogging.
There are three types of SSL certificates based on validation, they are:
Domain Validated (DV) SSL Certificates
This certificate requires the lowest level of validation. Once requested, Certificate Authorities do not check the identity of a person or company running a website. They only verify that the website’s admin runs the URL, which is enough to register a domain.
With this certification, the web address gets the HTTPS prefix, and browsers display the padlock symbol. Clicking on the padlock enables visitors to check the certificate and see the basic information about the website owner. DV SSL certificates are ideal for small websites & blogs.
Pros of DV SSL certificates:
- The verification process is usually automated and takes place online
- Certificate Authority does not ask for any paperwork
- This certificate is received on the same day of making request
- These certificates are the cheapest option available in the market
Cons of DV SSL certificates:
- A low level of validation often makes end-users reluctant to share information
- These certificates are not considered as secure as other options
Organization Validated (OV) SSL Certificates
Having an OV SSL certificate proves that you own the website domain and an organization/company in a specific country & city. A website is required to go through several background checks to receive this certificate. This certificate also gives a website an HTPPS prefix in its URL and a padlock icon next to the address bar. Once a user clicks on the padlock, a browser shows the domain owner’s information and reveals relevant names, addresses, and countries of origin. OV SSL certificates are ideal for small companies and platforms that collect sensitive user information.
Pros of OV SSL certificates:
- Provides strong all-around security
- It is considered more trustworthy than DV SSL certificates as visitors have more information at their disposal.
Cons of OV SSL certificates:
- You need to prepare and submit your business documents to a CA
- It is more expensive than a DV SSL certificate.
Extended Validated (EV) SSL Certificates
This certificate gives the same validation as both DV & OV SSL certificates, but it also proves that you’ve registered your website as an official business. Certificate Authorities do extensive background checks before issuing this certificate. They typically inspect domain ownership, legal existence, physical location(s), and more. The exclusive feature of an EV SSL certificate is that it turns a part of the browser address bar green. Also, it places the name of the organization next to the padlock symbol. This gives visitors assurance that it is safe to interact with the website. EV SSL certificates are perfect for big enterprises, financial institutions, and eCommerce stores.
Pros of EV SSL certificates:
- Provides top-notch protection against email fraud, phishing attacks, whaling attacks, and other attacks
- By clearly stating the organization’s name, EV SSL certificates emphasize the validation of the business
Cons of EV SSL certificates:
- This is the most expensive SSL certificate in the market
- The verification process can take up to a few weeks
SSL Certificates Types Based on the Number of Domains
Another parameter that determines the type of SSL certificate one may require is how many domains one wants to protect.
There are five types of SSL certificates based on the number of domains, they are:
- Single-Domain SSL certificate
- Wildcard SSL certificate
- Multi-Domain SSL certificate
- Multi-Domain Wildcard SSL certificate
- Unified Communications SSL certificate
Let’s take a look at the features and characteristics of each of these SSL certificates:
Single-Domain SSL Certificates
- This certificate secures one domain and all of its pages
- It covers both www and non-www versions of the domain
- It is considered the cheapest type of SSL
- This certificate is enough to protect data coming in and out of a website
- Buying this type of SSL certificate for a domain will not apply to its subdomains.
Wildcard SSL Certificates
- This certificate protects a single domain along with an unlimited number of subdomains. Thus, it is a great option if you plan on adding subdomains as it enables you to use the certificate for any subdomain.
- Additionally, it is far easier to manage this certificate than single domain certificates for each of your subdomains.
- The only drawback with this certificate is that you need to be very careful when you’re using it on multiple servers, as you’ll be using the same private key on all servers. It might take just one server to be compromised, and all the other servers will become vulnerable, too.
Multi-Domain SSL Certificates
- This SSL certificate can protect multiple domains as well as subdomains
- Depending upon the Certificate Authority, a Multi-Domain SSL certificate will enable you to secure up to 250 domains
- With this certificate, the first domain is treated as the Base Domain, and all others are considered as subject alternative names (SAN) domains.
Multi-Domain Wildcard SSL Certificates
- This certificate combines features of Wildcard and Multi-Domain SSL certificates
- It protects multiple fully qualified domains and an unlimited number of subdomains.
- Here the initial investment is substantial
- This certificate is a good choice if you’re running multiple sites
- It enables admins to manage a unified certification for all websites.
Unified Communications (UCC) SSL Certificates
- UCC SSL certificates are typically issued for environments that utilize Microsoft Exchange and Office Communications
- This SSL certificate enables users to protect multiple fully qualified domains under a single certificate
- Just like with Multi-Domain SSL, the first domain is called the Base Domain, while others rely on SAN extensions instead of different IP addresses.
- Depending on the Certificate Authority, UCC can allow you to secure anywhere between 25 to 250 domains.
Code Signing Certificates
This certificate enables you to encrypt software codes to ensure hackers don’t tamper with them. Having a Code Signing certificate for your files is better as all the major operating systems warn users when they are downloading or installing unsigned software.
Adding this layer of protection enables you to:
- Build trust and confidence with users
- Boost the number of downloads
- Protect the integrity of your software package
- Establish yourself as the software publisher
Once a user tries to install a signed piece of software, the Operating System will display a popup window. Thus, users can go to the developer’s website or click on the publisher’s name to check certification information.
Self-Signed SSL Certificates
Another way to secure your website with the SSL protocol is by getting a self-signed certificate. Here the site owners generate a self-signed certificate instead of a Certificate Authority. This certificate provides data encryption and adds HTTPS to your address, but unlike other SSL certificate types, anyone can create them. There is no trusted third-party that can guarantee user’s safety, so most browsers will display a warning message to users whenever they’re visiting the website. Unless you’re using a website for private purposes, getting any other certification will be better than having a self-signed one.
The online environment has its rules and regulations. Securing your website with an SSL certificate is no longer a luxury but a necessity if you wish to do business online. SSL certificates reassure your visitors that they can trust you.
Contact BigRock for more information on SSL Certificates and which type of certificate will be best suited for your website.
For more tips on keeping your website and online business secure, head to our Security Blog category. If you have any questions, comments or suggestions please feel free to leave a comment below.