How does SSL / TLS work to create trust?

Feb 17, 2021, 11:05 AM by Riaan De Villiers
Trust is important in the digital world. How can TLS certificates be used to create trust in your customers?

Creating trust in online commerce.
Image by Negative Space from Pexels.

Continuing our series of articles on SSL / TLS certificates, today we will look at what they are and how they leverage Public Key Infrastructure to create trust.

A customer’s trust in you is an important part of business, people do business with somebody that they like, know and trust. To create trust in an online world is harder than in the offline retail space.

While it is harder to create trust online, there are many ways to create trust of which TLS is one of the components.

To understand how TLS creates trust we must first look at what a Certificate Authority is.

Certificate Authorities

A Certificate Authority (CA) acts as a trusted third-party that issues TLS certificates to organisations that need the certificates for their websites. As trust anchors for the internet, CAs have a big responsibility.

To provide these security services, CAs employ vast infrastructure consisting of software, hardware, policies, auditing, security and personnel. Collectively, the elements of a CA are known as Public Key Infrastructure (PKI).

CAs that are recognised as trusted Certificate Authorities are in a position to issue public trust certificates. There are two types of certificates, private and public trust certificates.  Public trust certificates are the certificates that carry the highest form of trust.

Public trust TLS certificates

These certificates can only be issued by trusted Certificate Authorities (CA). Certificates issued by trusted CAs are automatically recognised by browsers like Chrome, Firefox, Microsoft Edge and Safari.

To be a trusted CA, the CA must issue TLS certificates in accordance with the policies established by the CA / Browser Forum and any additional requirements that the software vendor might have. By adhering to these requirements, the CA issues and manages TLS certificates according to the latest best practices ensuring the best security for the users of the certificates.

Public trust certificates are normally deployed on public-facing websites and prevents browsers from raising security warnings when a user logs onto the website.

The role of the TLS certificate on the public-facing website is twofold:

  1. It identifies the website to the user to prevent impersonation.
  2. It encrypts data between the user’s machine and the server to provide confidentiality and prevent data tampering.

Identify your website

TLS protected website.

Trusted CAs will carefully validate the identity of all applicants for TLS certificates before they will issue the certificate. This identity verification process assures the user can trust the identity of the owner of the website and that they have not landed on a fraudulent website.

Encrypt data

Encrypting the data between your website and the client prevents unauthorised access to the information that the user is sending, creating an additional layer of trust.

Providing these assurances to users of the website, could increase the trust the user has in the website. In a study performed by Harvard Business Review, they have found that users that trust a website is more likely to make a purchase on the website.

In conclusion, a TLS certificate is a quick way to add two extra elements of trust to a website and help build trust with your customers.

Want to know more about TLS? Contact LAWtrust today to learn more.