A Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate is a digital certificate that authenticates the identity of a website and encrypts the information sent to the server over SSL technology. Encryption converts the data into an unreadable format that can only be converted back into a readable format with the right decryption key.
A certificate serves as an electronic "passport" that provides the access data for an online facility when doing business on the Internet. When an Internet user attempts to send sensitive information to a web server, the user's browser accesses the server's digital certificate and establishes a secure connection.
An SSL certificate contains the following information:
- Certificate holder name
- Serial number and expiry date of the certificate
- Copy of the certificate holder's public key
- Digital signature of the authority issuing the certificate