What is a Website Security Certificate and How it Works?

Bruce Wayne, aka Batman, once said: Criminals are like weeds; pull one up, another grows in its place. In the same way, there are many cyber criminals who keep on trying to get access to your personal information through websites.

But, just like Batman, website security certificates come to the fore to act as silent guardians and protect you from scamsters. In this article, you will get to know everything about website security certificates, along with their whole working process.

Let’s Begin!

What is a website security certificate?

Website security certificates are certificates issued by authoritative companies that are certificate authorities. These certificates testifies whether a website is real or not.

For e.g., A person opens a website that offers Local SEO Services

When that individual clicks on the website’s link, then their digital device(laptop/personal computer/pad/smartphone) will hold a mini conversation with the website’s server. It is done so because both the device and server need to exchange information for the following reasons:-

  • For requesting the website’s content.
  • To send the data of the requested web page.
  • Enable smooth navigation for a dynamic website.
  • Ensure the data exchanged is completely secure.
  • For verifying the website server’s authenticity along with the device.

At the time when exchange of information between a device and server is taking place, the security of that private information should be made sure. That’s where website security certificates come into the picture.

These certificates keep all the information of both the website’s server and an individual’s digital device completely safe.

For e.g.:- Imagine a scenario where you have to do online shopping for your daily groceries. You visit a popular grocery website through which you can place an order for your grocery. You place an order and use your credit card to pay for it.

There is a high chance of fraudsters using your credit card information with the help of malicious means. But that will not happen if that grocery website’s web address starts with “https://” instead of “http://”.

The presence of “https” in the website’s URL clearly means that the website has a well-functioning security certificate. This certificate will ensure that no one can steal either your personal or credit card information.

The reason behind it is the certificate will encrypt all your data when your information is exchanged with the website’s server through your digital device. Even if hackers get hold of your data, they won’t be able to de-encrypt or intercept your data.

How do website security certificates work?

Website security certificates work in a systematic step-by-step way. Here’s the breakdown of its complete working:-

Encrypting all the information

The first step of a website security certificate’s working is that it encrypts different types of information of a user when they interact with a website. All of the personal info is encrypted into a secret code that is almost impossible to be deciphered by cybercriminals.

The effectiveness of public and private keys.

The core of a website security certificate is the usage of public and private keys. These keys work together to make a secure communication channel between the user’s web browser and the server of the website they are visiting. Here’s what public and private keys mean:-

  • Public Key: This key is a kind of digital lock for different types of information of a user. When a user shares their private information with a website, then their web browser uses the public key to put a virtual lock on all that information. The hackers can see this lock or public key, but they won’t be able to open it.
  • Private Key: The only way through which a public key can be opened is with the help of a private key. Without this key, the encrypted information cannot be opened by the website. That’s why this key is protected by the website at all costs. This key is used for decrypting the information that’s locked up by the public key. It helps a lot in protecting the private information of the end user.

The best part about these keys is:-

Anyone can encrypt the data with the help of the public key of the website. But that data & information can only be decrypted and accessed by the website’s server with the help of their private key. This is a great mechanism to protect the sensitive information of users from cyber threats.

The role of certificate authorities.

Can you imagine what would happen if any random organization started issuing website security certificates to websites? Chaos would unleash, and cyber crimes would take place left, right, and center.

That’s precisely the reason there are well-established certificate authorities(CAs) present in the digital world. They do their work as protectors and act as the first line of defence against online fraudsters and scammers. Their certificate-issuing process is listed below:-

Authentication process:

When websites approach CAs to obtain a website security certificate, they have to go through an authentication process first.

In that process, the CAs’ staff evaluate whether that website can be permitted or not based on various factors. Alongside, background checks are also run on the entity that is behind the website and has made the request.

A very important part of the validation process is to confirm the domain ownership of the website.

Online signature:

Once the website clears the authentication process, an online certificate is issued by the CA, which consists of a public key for their website and some useful information.

Moreover, the CA sign this certificate with their own private key, which works as an online signature that shows the originality of the certificate.

Conviction in the web browser:

Most web browsers have a pre-installed catalogue of genuine CAs.

When a user visits a website that is secured by a security certificate, then their web browser checks the online signature of the certificate with the list of CAs that they have in their database.

Secure socket layer(SSL) handshake process

The SSL handshake process starts when a user visits a secure website. The steps followed in this process enable a safe exchange of data between the user’s web browser and the website’s server.

The complete breakdown of the SSL handshake process is as follows:-

Browser hello:

The process of SSL handshake starts when the user’s web browser sends a “hello” message to the website’s server. The information regarding the client’s encryption algorithms is contained in this message.

Server hello:

Responding to the browser’s hello message, the server chooses the most robust encryption algorithm. It is done so that the browser and the server can use that algorithm and then sends the browser a “hello” message.

Swapping certificates:

The server swaps its online certificate with that of the web browser. Then the browser verifies the online signature of the server with its catalogue of authentic CAs to check its credibility.

Exchange of keys:

Then, the web browser generates a unique session key and, by using the server’s public key, encrypts it. This key is used primarily for encrypting and decrypting the data in the ongoing connection.

Completed handshake:

At last, messages are exchanged to validate that the handshake is completed and the connection is made. After this point, the data that is shared between the browser and server is safe and encrypted.

Types of website security certificates

There are different types of website security certificates, but not all of them are similar to each other. There are different types of certificates present that depends on the extent of security needed. These types are written below:-

1. Domain-validated(DV) certificates:

These types of certificates are very easy to get and provide fundamental encryption.

Under these certificates, a certificate authority(CA) confirms only the domain’s proprietary rights.

They are appropriate for websites that don’t need substantial authentication. For e.g., blog websites, personal websites, small business websites.

2. Organization validated(OV) certificates:

The OV certificates provide greater security as compared to the DV certificates.

The CA checks the domain’s rights along with the website organization’s site and legal presence.

These certificates are used by a lot of businesses to make their users’ data and information secure.

3. Extended Validation(EV) certificates:

These types of certificates offer the greatest security among all website security certificates.

For issuing this certificate, the CA implements a more stringent authentication process.

In that procedure, they look at the following:-

  1. Website owner’s background
  2. Their domain rights
  3. Legal Existence
  4. Physical presence

The credibility of these certificates is such that they are showcased in web browsers with a green address bar which means that they have an extremely secure connection.

The EV certificates are used by websites of e-commerce brands and financial organizations.

Do you know?

  • On the internet, more than 96% of website security certificates are issued by only nine certificate authorities.
  • By 2023, the market of certificate authority will breach the $1.8 million mark.


By now, you must have known everything about website security certificates. If they were not there, then a lot of users in the online world would have had their sensitive data and personal information leaked.

That’s why they are the silent guardians, which not many people know, but their effectiveness is for everyone to see. Because of website security certificates, everyone’s digital exploration has been a safe experience to a larger extent.

Recommended Reading: