How Companies Keep Your Data Private on Their Websites

When you get online to browse the Internet, send an email or buy from an online store, you’re putting your information out into the World Wide Web. So how is it that more people don’t have their information stolen? This is thanks, in part, to the security protocols that websites use to protect the transmission of private data. The most common security protocol that websites use is a Secure Sockets Layer, or SSL.

SSL certificate

How SSL Works

While the actual technology behind SSL is complex, it’s actually an easy concept. Think of a door that is locked, and a key is required to open it. In many ways, SSL works like that hypothetical key. SSL provides websites with the keys to lock and unlock the sensitive data that you are sending to their websites. People who might be spying on the connection can’t view your private data unless they have the right key.

Protecting a Site With SSL

When a company sets up a site, its visitors aren’t automatically protected by SSL. Instead, the company needs an SSL certificate authority that can verify that the connections between its servers and clients are trusted. When your browser attempts to connect to a website that is protected, a type of virtual “handshake” takes place between your browser and the website. If the browser doesn’t receive the SSL handshake, it throws up warning flags and usually tells the user that the website isn’t protected.

Encrypting Data

When data is sent to and from a certified website, the SSL encrypts the data to prevent people from eavesdropping. Using these security keys, the data can only be read by the receiver and the sender. SSL security protocol uses a public key infrastructure, or PKI. With this kind of security, each end of the link has it’s own key: either a public key or a private key. When communication occurs between a website and a browser, the sender encrypts the data being sent with the public key. On the other end, the receiver decrypts the data with the private key.

SSL vs TLS

While SSL certificates are the most commonly used security protocol, it’s not the only one. Another commonly used protocol is Transport Layer Security, or TLS. The main difference between these two types of protocols is that SSL connections start off by applying security and then proceed with basic communications. With TLS, the communication comes first with a basic “hello” to the server. TLS only continues with secure communication after successfully communicating with the server. To form a connection, it attempts a virtual handshake, much like SSL. If the handshake isn’t successful, then TLS won’t connect the client to the website.

SSL and TLS are very different in the way that they go about protecting you while surfing the Internet and exchanging personal data with websites. Despite their differences, both provide a great way to protect and secure your data when sending it over a connection.