Keeping your users safe on the internet should be the top priority for every online business owner. Still, unless you work in internet security, you probably won’t know the difference between SSL and TLS nor why the distinction is so important. Let us explain.
With the amount of data passing around the internet these days, encryption has become an important buzzword in the industry. It refers to methods in which webmasters can protect the data generated by their users daily from those who would like to capture it and use it for nefarious means.
The History of SSL
However, this has been something keen web security experts have been working on since basically the dawn of the internet. SSL, or Secure Sockets Layer, and TLS, or Transport Layer Security, are known as cryptographic protocols that provide authentication and data encryption and decryption between servers and users.
The first version of SSL was created around 25 years ago in 1995, and it was incredibly flawed even back then. Version 1.0, developed by Netscape, was never officially released because it was so buggy, and there were so many security flaws. SSL 2.0 did get an official release and became more widely used, but, in truth, it wasn’t a whole lot better than the unreleased first version.
A year later, in 1996, SSL 3.0 was launched and this time it was still a buggy, an unsecured mess that led a team of developers at Consensus Development to decide enough was enough and have a crack at it themselves.
The Arrival of TLS
They came up with TLS. It should be noted that it was not a significant upgrade. The developers even stated, “The differences between this protocol and SSL 3.0 are not dramatic, but they are significant enough that TLS 1.0 and SSL 3.0 do not interoperate.”
We are now on TLS 1.3, which was created in 2018 and is a significant upgrade on everything that has come before it. Major global technology companies like Microsoft, Google, and Apple are all pushing it to become the standard security protocol used online.
Should You Use Security Layers
The simple answer is yes because security layers are no longer optional, and every business online is adopting one or the other. It’s of paramount importance in the e-commerce industry on sites like Amazon, because people’s banking and credit card information needs to be protected.
Even sites in the entertainment industry have taken a big step in recent years, with the likes of Netflix adopting TLS to protect user privacy. It can even be seen in the iGaming industry, where online cricket betting sites like bet365 have encryption that protects the information and transactions carried out in the casino.
And, for all the reasons mentioned above, you should sit down with your webmaster about disabling SSL 2.0 and 3.0, and while you are at it, TLS 1.0 and TLS 1.1 as well. Not only are they not nearly as safe because the bad guys figured them out ages ago, but most web browsers will also display a padlock or other security warning to the user unless the older encryption protocols have been disabled.
Security Protocols Are Not Certificates
Before you start culling all of your SSL certificates, it is crucial to mention at this point that you shouldn’t because an SSL certificate is not the same as the SSL 2.0 encryption protocol. In the simplest terms, protocols are a handshake agreement between a website and the user’s browser about which security cypher suite to use to encrypt the data. The older protocols are dangerous because the handshake can be interrupted or faked to allow third party access to the encrypted data.
Traditionally an SSL handshake uses a port to make the connection, whereas TLS connects via a protocol. Early versions of the handshake required several back-and-forth trips between the client and the server to authenticate, which produced latency and the myth that security protocols slow down a website. This has got better and better over time to the point that TLS 3.0 completes the handshake in a single trip, dramatically increasing the speed of connection and data security.
Ultimately, there isn’t a lot of difference between SSL and TLS in terms of concept and technology, and many people use the terms interchangeably with the layman. But, if you are serious about protecting your users’ data, it’s essential to know the difference and make sure your website is prepared.