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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Sunday, February 25, 2024

College 101: What Do Security Certificates Actually Do?

 I’m studying Information Technology and am hoping to eventually pursue a career in data security. I know that when I use my laptop on campus, it’s important to stay secure in order to protect my data. And I know that means a security certificate is saved to help establish a secure connection and keep me safe when I’m connected to the wireless networks on campus. But I’m still a little unclear about the security certificates that enable this kind of thing to happen. What do security certificates actually do?

At a time when major tech companies are grappling with data storage and security, it’s understandable to want to learn more about the mechanics behind security.

This has caused many people to reconsider their relationship with the internet, and how to best approach the day-to-day browsing that has become integral to modern life. Some people even choose to use systems for research that don’t store their data at all, like the video search engine, Petey Vid, which has its own quirks like searching via hashtags and mentions. Another way to browse more safely is to better understand how security certificates operate and protect you. 

When it comes to security when browsing online, you’re absolutely right that it’s important to protect your data. One way that this is done is with SSL (secure sockets layer) technology. SSL is the general, agreed-upon standard for all online security efforts.

One aspect of that process is encrypting important data so that it can’t be read by just anyone. Typically, the kind of data that is encrypted with SSL is personal in nature, such as your credit card information, social security number, and even your phone number and address. 

Certificates play a major role in SSL encryption and verification, with certificates serving as an incredibly important part of a series of checks and balances to protect internet users. An SSL certificate can be used to verify that site owners aren’t spoofing other websites, and can also protect credit card transactions for purchases. It is also vital for keeping usernames and passwords secure, which, in turn, continues to protect you and your other personal data.

You may have seen a padlock icon in your web browser’s address bar, the universal symbol for a website that has been identified as secure. That’s actually a great analogy for how SSL works too, and becomes even more helpful when it comes to explaining security certificates. If the padlock means that your browsing data is being encrypted, think of a security certificate as the key to unlock that padlock.

When the proper certificate is in place, you can be identified so that only your data is accessed. This is done automatically by your computer, which makes sure that the “grooves” and “shape” of your key fit the lock and vice versa. If the website has an out-of-date certificate or is falsely representing itself, your computer will warn you that something is amiss.

You’re wise to be learning more about SSL certificates, especially as you continue to pursue a career in data security. In fact, ensuring that a website’s SSL certificates are set up properly is becoming more and more important. That’s because bad actors are abusing SSL-enabled web properties and hiding malicious spyware behind a more secure platform that makes such viruses even harder to identify.

As more and more companies begin to take data privacy more seriously, you’re sure to have a career once you finish your studies. By understanding how security certificates play a role in protecting data, you’ll be well on your way to landing a job in the field.

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