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Site Security Fundamentals: Let’s Encrypt & SSL

It’s been a while, but we’re back with another Appnbyte! In case you missed it – Appnbytes are mini-articles written by the developers at Appenate, translating complex ideas and findings into simple language. 

This one is meaty and a must-read for anyone interested in basic web security. It was written by Morné Zaayman, our Platform Team Lead, and without further ado…

Let’s begin. 

What is Let’s Encrypt?

It’s a free, automated, open certificate authority providing domain validation certificates. This means that customers can have custom domains with HTTPS encryption without paying extra fees or manually installing certificates. 

These certificates are trusted by most browsers and platforms, and they renew automatically every 90 days. 

This ensures that customer websites are always secure and up-to-date with the latest security standards.

What is an SSL certificate?

If you’ve ever visited a website that starts with https://, you may have noticed a small padlock icon next to the web address. This icon indicates that the website has an SSL certificate, which means your connection to the website is secure and encrypted. But what exactly is an SSL certificate, and why is it important? 

An SSL certificate is a digital file containing information about a website’s identity and public key. The public key is a code used to encrypt and decrypt the data sent between your browser and the website. The identity information includes the domain name, the name of the organisation or person who owns the website, and the name of the certificate authority that issued the certificate.

A certificate authority (CA) is a trusted third party that verifies the website owner’s identity and signs the certificate with its own digital signature. This signature proves that the certificate is authentic and has not been tampered with by anyone else. When you visit a website with an SSL certificate, your browser checks the certificate’s signature and identity information to ensure that you are connecting to the right website, not a fake one.

An SSL certificate also enables HTTPS, which stands for HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure. HTTPS is a more secure version of HTTP, which is the protocol that governs how data is transferred over the Internet. It ensures that the data you send and receive from a website is encrypted, meaning that no one else can read or modify it in transit. This protects your personal information, such as passwords, credit card numbers, or bank details, from hackers and cybercriminals.

HTTPS also provides other benefits, such as faster loading speed, better ranking on search engines, and more user trust. Many browsers warn users when they visit a website that does not have an SSL certificate or HTTPS by displaying a message like “Not Secure” or “Connection Not Private”. This can discourage users from visiting or interacting with such websites.

What is HTTPS?

HTTP stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol, and HTTPS (as mentioned above) adds an extra layer of security by encrypting the data.

Encryption is the process of transforming data into code that only authorised parties can read. This prevents anyone from intercepting or tampering with it while it travels between your browser and the server.

It’s important because it protects your privacy and security when you browse the web, especially when you share sensitive information such as passwords, credit card numbers, or personal details. HTTPS also ensures that you connect to a legitimate website, not a fake one that may try to steal your information or harm your device.

To enable HTTPS, you need a digital SSL certificate from a trusted authority that verifies its identity and authenticity. When you visit an HTTPS website, your browser will check this certificate and display a padlock icon in the address bar to indicate that the connection is secure.

You should always look for this padlock icon when you visit any website requiring you to enter information or perform any transactions. If you don’t see it, or if you see a warning message that the connection is not secure, you should avoid using that website or proceed with caution.

HTTPS is not only beneficial for users but also for website owners. It can improve a website’s performance, reliability, ranking and protect it from malicious attacks and legal issues.

How does Appenate ensure data security?

We take the data security of our customers very seriously and rely on various measures to ensure it, such as:

  • Using LetsEncrypt to generate SSL certificates for all white-labelled websites
  • Storing all the data on secure cloud servers compliant with industry standards and regulations. We perform regular backups and audits to prevent data loss or corruption.
  • Letting you control who has access. You can set up user roles, permissions, passwords, and data retention policies.

That’s It For Now

We sincerely hope you learned something interesting here today. And we’ll catch you in the next one! 

Before you go, feel free to check out our other Appnbytes😉👇

Optimising The User Experience – Joe de Lange (Intermediate Front-end Dev)

How To Avoid Rabbit Holes – Bradley Smithies (Software Architect)

Enter The Testing Process – Brandon Reid (Junior Front-end Dev)