SSL and TLS; both are security protocols that help you securely authenticate and transport data across the Internet.
But what is the difference between SSL and TLS? Do you need to worry about the differences between TLS and SSL?
In this article, I will help you to understand the main differences between SSL and TLS. And also how both protocols connect to HTTPS.
As an end-user, you may not need to worry much about TLS vs SSL. And you don’t need to worry about whether you are using TLS Certificates or SSL Certificates.
What is the Difference Between TLS and SSL?
Both Transport Layer Security (TLS) and Secure Socket Layers (SSL) are cryptographic protocols.
TLS/SSL encrypts data and authenticates a connection securely when transferring on the Internet.
Here is an example. If your website is processing credit card payments, SSL and TLS can help you securely process the data so that any malicious players can’t sneak in between.
So what’s the difference?
Well, TLS is just a more modern version of SSL. TLS fixes some security vulnerabilities in the earlier SSL protocols.
Because of security flaws, SSL 1.0 was never publicly released.
SSL 2.0 was released in February 1995, but since it also contained security flaws, in 1996 SSL 2.0 was replaced with SSL 3.0.
As an upgrade to SSL 3.0, the first version of TLS (1.0) was released in 1999.
From TLS 1.0 there have been three more releases. The most recent version of TLS (1.3) released in August 2018.
Due to the known security vulnerabilities, both public SSL releases are deprecated.
How TLS and SSL Secure Data?
I will explain the high-level process for how both TLS and SSL work.
At the time of installing an SSL/TLS certificate on your web server, it includes a private key and a public key.
These keys are used to authenticate your server and let your server encrypt and decrypt data in the background.
When your website visitor accesses your site, their web browser will look for your site’s TLS/SSL certificate.
Once the certificates are retrieved, the browser will perform a handshake to validate your certificate. After the validation, it can authenticate your server.
After the successful authentication with your server, the browser creates an encrypted connection between the browser and your webserver to handle data securely.
This is the time where HTTP over SSL/TLS (HTTPS) comes into the process.
HTTP is the application protocol which plays a fundamental role in transferring data over the Internet.
That information is vulnerable to attacks if the HTTP isn’t secured.
When we use HTTP over SSL or TLS (HTTPS), the system encrypts and authenticates the data during transportation, which makes it secure.
This is what we use when processing credit card details securely over HTTPS but not over HTTP.
Why Are We Still Calling as SSL Certificate if SSL is Deprecated?
You have now learned that TLS is the upgraded version of SSL. You also know that both public releases of SSL have been deprecated for many years due to known security vulnerabilities.
You must be wondering now why everyone still calls it an SSL certificate and not a TLS certificate?
At Rovity, we also use SSL instead of TLS in many places. But I can assure you that we are not using any outdated technology here.
Branding is the reason why most people still refer to them as SSL certificates.
Larger certificate providers still call the certificates as SSL certificates, that is why the naming persists.
All the offered SSL Certificates are SSL/TLS Certificates. Rovity also offers TLS certificates via Let’s Encrypt and not SSL certificates.
You can use both the TLS and SSL protocols with your certificate.
There’s nothing as just an SSL certificate or only a TLS certificate.
You don’t need to bother about replacing your SSL certificate with a TLS certificate either, primarily if your websites are hosted with Rovity.
Should You Use TLS or SSL?
Yes, TLS is replacing SSL. It was already upgraded in Rovity years ago.
Yes, it would be best if you were using TLS instead of SSL. With Rovity, you are using modern TLS.
Latest TLS versions are more secure, and it offers performance benefits and other improvements.
How can you make sure that your website is using the latest versions of TLS?
I can help you with that.
But remember that the protocol that your server uses won’t be the same as your certificate.
You don’t require to change your certificate to use TLS. Your certificate already supports both the TLS and SSL protocols.
Well, what’s the catch then?
You will have to control which protocol your website uses at the server level.
If you are hosting at Rovity, Rovity already enables TLS 1.3 for you.
TLS 1.3 is the most up-to-date and secure version with enhanced performance. As a backup option, we have TLS 1.2 as well.
Are you not hosted with Rovity? You can use the SSL Labs tool to verify which protocols are enabled for your site.
If you test your website hosted at Rovity, you can see Rovity activated TLS 1.3 and TLS 1.2 for your website. You can also see that insecure and deprecated versions are disabled at Rovity by default.
Did you find that your server still supports the deprecated SSL protocols? I suggest you get in touch with your web host for support.
Why Rovity Enables Multiple TLS Protocols?
Why does Rovity still also enable TLS 1.2, a slightly older version and not stick with the latest version TLS 1.3 alone?
In simple terms, what’s the benefit of having multiple TLS protocols enabled?
This is an excellent question. Let me clear your doubts.
You know that there are two parties involved in the SSL/TLS handshake process.
1. The webserver.
2. The client; mostly, it will be your visitor’s web browser.
For the SSL/TLS handshake to work, both the server and the client need to support the same protocol.
You see, compatibility is the main advantage of having multiple protocols.
While all modern web browsers support TLS 1.3, there are a few browsers that do not support TLS 1.3 yet.
See the list of browsers that support TLS 1.3.
See the list of browsers that support TLS 1.2.
You can ensure compatibility if you have both TLS 1.3 and TLS 1.2 enabled on your server; no matter what.
With this, you can still get the benefits of TLS 1.3 for browsers that support it, like Chrome and Firefox.
And at the same time, you are not closing the doors for those who use browsers like Opera Mobile or Internet Explorer.
Do you want to use cutting edge technologies without having to worry about the technical challenges?
Migrate to Rovity and let your websites fly!