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What is SSL Encryption? - Definition & Explanation

Instructor: Ian Lord

Ian is a real estate investor, MBA, former health professions educator, and Air Force veteran.

In this lesson, we will briefly define SSL encryption and explain how it is used to create a secure connection for the purpose of protecting sensitive personal or financial information between a web server and a user.

SSL Encryption

Luke has built a website to sell his woodworking projects and plans online. While developing the site, he noticed how his website host kept pushing him to purchase an SSL certificate to increase the security of his site. Let's define for Luke exactly what SSL means and how it is used to keep his website a secure place to conduct business.

SSL Definition

Integrating SSL into a web page improves security by reducing the risk of identity theft. SSL stands for Secure Socket Layer. It is an ecryption method used to prevent anyone other than a web server and the user from eavesdropping on the transmission of sensitive personal or financial information. This encryption can secure a connection between a website and a web browser or an email host and client, such as Microsoft Outlook.

SSL Explanation

So, how exactly does SSL protect Luke's e-commerce site? In an unencrypted connection, information is sent in plain text. If some third party gets access to that connection, he can then plainly read whatever is being transmitted. The SSL encryption is created with a SSL certificate. Certificates are issued by a certification company and contain information such as the domain name, company name, and contact information as well as an expiration date for the encryption.

Bill decides to buy one of Luke's woodworking plans. Bill's web browser pulls up Luke's website and receives a copy of the SSL certificate along with a public key. The public key contains mathematical instructions, known as an algorithm, to encode information sent to Bill. If Bill's web browser trusts that the certificate is not expired or withdrawn by the certifying company, it will send a private key with its own algorithm back to Luke's server.

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