How Does A Digital Certificate Work?

SSL certificate, Digital Certification, encryption etc sound like ominous terms :) So we thought we would simplify them for you. Let’s begin by defining Secure Sockets Layer or SSL as it is commonly known. SSL is a commonly-used protocol for managing the security of message transmission on the Internet.

SSL or Digital certificates ensure that each website that is used for gathering and transmitting customer information is genuine and guarantees the safety of this information. It is a must have for any website that requires transfer of information, especially in case of e-commerce websites where sensitive information such as Credit Card Numbers, Personal Information etc is exchanged between the client browsers and website servers.

So how does SSL work?

SSL uses public key encryption technology for authentication. Public key encryption requires that a public key and a private key be generated for an application. Let us now understand how public and private keys are used.

Data encrypted with a public key can only be decrypted using its corresponding private key and vice versa. The private key is stored in a key database file that is password-protected. Only the owner of the private key can access it to decrypt messages that are encrypted using the corresponding public key. Sounds complicated? Read on to know more.

In order to ensure maximum security, a digital certificate is issued by a third-party Certificate Authority (CA) like VeriSign. A digital certificate verifies the identity of an entity through the following fields:

Organizational Information

This section of the certificate contains information that uniquely identifies the owner of the certificate, such as organizational name and address. You supply this information when you generate a certificate using a certificate management utility.

Public key

The receiver of the certificate uses a public key to decipher encrypted text sent by the certificate owner to verify its identity. A public key has a corresponding private key that encrypts the text.

Certificate Authority’s Distinguished name

The issuer of the certificate identifies itself with this information.

Digital Signature

The issuer of the certificate signs it with a digital signature to verify its authenticity. This signature is compared to the signature on the corresponding CA certificate to verify that the certificate originated from a trusted certificate authority.

Why is a Digital Certificate important?

A website is one of the best ways for any business to find new customers. But this will only happen if the website is well designed and necessary security measures are in place. Typically SSL is used to secure credit card transactions, data transfer, logins and more recently is becoming the norm when securing browsing of social media sites.

Most Internet users expect any personal information they provide on the Internet, to remain confidential and integral. Many people will never buy your products or services online unless they are sure about the confidentiality of their data. The SSL certificate is the only way to secure your online transactions and to show your customers that you really value their privacy.

An important component of SSL is the ‘Secured by GlobalSign’ Seal which is a globally recognized trust mark, available for display in 13 different languages. When you download your seal, choose the size and language most appropriate for your web site.


When you accept credit card numbers online or ask users to create an account, you need to show that your website can be trusted. The ‘GlobalSign Secured Seal’ gives your web site instant credibility in the online world by visually reassuring customers that your site’s identity has been verified and that it is secured with a SSL certificate. Hope this gives you a good overview of the value & role of a Digital Certificate in our online economy.

PS: We’re revamping our SSL page. Check it out later and tell us what you think :)