What is an SSL cipher?

Most computers today have access to the Internet. Secure Socket Layer (SSL) is a cryptographic security measure that protects confidential data on the Internet. An SSL cipher is an encryption algorithm that creates a special certificate, which is used as a key between two computers on the Internet. This certificate creates a secret encrypted connection between the two networked computers, which blocks unwanted eavesdropping on shared data.

Http is not encrypted, but https is.

The secure socket layer was originally developed by Netscape™ as a secure protocol for Internet e-commerce activities. SSL is not visible to most Internet users, but it occurs when logging into a website with an HTTPS (Secure Hypertext Transfer Protocol) address. Some browsers alert the user when they are entering a secure site. This message is an indication of SSL encryption in action.

SSL ciphers protect sensitive data on the Internet by encrypting it.

Data encryption is the process of converting plain text data into ciphered secret codes. Once the data is encrypted, it is impossible to understand why it is a scrambled representation of the original text. SSL cipher is a cryptographic function that uses encryption keys to create an encrypted message. Encryption keys vary in size and complexity. Larger bit keys offer a higher level of security.

There are several forms of SSL encryption algorithms available. They can support the Data Encryption Standard (DES) or the Advanced Data Encryption Standard (AES). AES standards are considered more difficult to crack because they use larger encryption keys.

Data encryption standards are managed by the US federal government through the National Institute of Technology Standards (NIST). It is the agency that manages and publishes the standards used by encryption algorithms. AES is currently considered the gold standard for data encryption because it supports a 256-bit encryption key.

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SSL is a unique security protocol because it is based on the transport layer of computers. Typically, computers are connected to the Internet through telecommunications devices. With SSL, entire segments of the network’s telecommunications link are encrypted. This end-to-end encryption process is an encrypted tunnel between two computers. Decrypting the tunnel requires the SSL encryption code and encryption keys.

The advanced form of SSL encryption is only available on newer versions of operating systems and web browsers. This is because older versions of web browsers were based on DES standards and do not support large encryption keys. Windows® 2000 operating systems require service pack two for advanced SSL encryption.

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