All About SSL

What is SSL?

The Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) protocol, originally developed by Netscape, has become the universal standard on the Web for authenticating Web sites to Web browser users, and for encrypting communications between browser users and Web servers. Because SSL is built into all major browsers and Web servers, simply installing a digital certificate, or Server ID, enables SSL capabilities.

What are authentication and encryption?

SSL server authentication allows users to confirm a Web server's identity. SSL-enabled client software, such as a Web browser, can automatically check that a server's certificate and public ID are valid and have been issued by a certificate authority (CA) - such as VeriSign - listed in the client software's list of trusted CAs. SSL server authentication is vital for secure e-commerce transactions in which users, for example, are sending credit card numbers over the Web and first want to verify the receiving server's identity.

An encrypted SSL connection requires all information sent between a client and a server to be encrypted by the sending software and decrypted by the receiving software, protecting private information from interception over the Internet. In addition, all data sent over an encrypted SSL connection is protected with a mechanism for detecting tampering - that is, for automatically determining whether the data has been altered in transit. This means that users can confidently send private data, such as credit card numbers, to a Web site, trusting that SSL keeps it private and confidential.

How do Server IDs work?

1. A customer contacts this site and accesses a secured URL: a page secured by a Server ID (indicated by a URL that begins with "https:" instead of just "http:" or by a message from the browser).

2. Our server responds, automatically sending you, the customer, our site's digital certificate, which authenticates our site.

3. Your Web browser generates a unique "session key" to encrypt all communications with our site.

4. Your browser encrypts the session key itself with the site's public key so only the site can read the session key.

5. A secure session is now established. It all takes only seconds and requires no action by you, the user. Depending on the browser, you may see a key icon becoming whole or a padlock closing, indicating that the session is secure.

NOTE: Our site goes into the secure mode only beyond the shopping cart area, where your information is imputed.

This site utilizes a 128-bit SSL (Global Server) ID. What is the difference between a 40-bit SSL (Secure Server) ID and a 128-bit SSL (Global Server) ID? The primary difference between the two types of VeriSign Server IDs is the strength of the SSL session that each enable. SSL comes in two strengths, 40-bit and 128-bit, which refer to the length of the "session key" generated by every encrypted transaction. The longer the key, the more difficult it is to break the encryption code. 128-bit SSL encryption is the world's strongest: according to RSA Labs, it would take a trillion-trillion years to crack using today's technology.

Microsoft and Netscape offer two versions of their Web browsers, export and domestic, that enable different levels of encryption depending on the type of Server ID with which the browser is communicating.

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