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Almost everyone that works in the technology industry has heard of an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer). You might know that it's a good thing to have one and how to recognise if a website has one or not. But what do they actually do? And how important are they?

SSL certificates are vital to your website's security. They secure all communications between your end user and the server. You can imagine it as sending a letter inside a locked box. Anyone who might intercept your message won't be able to read the contents as its locked, however you and the server you are talking to know the code to open it.

To put a simple answer and if you need one for your website, it would be yes. Even for simple websites it's expected that you have an SSL. SSLs are especially important when it comes to sending login and credit card information between your users and the server. This type of information will be encrypted using the SSL certificate to ensure no-one else can read what the message contains.

SSL certificates can only last for a maximum of 1 year before needing renewing. This is a security feature. As devices get more and more powerful, it becomes easier to decrypt messages. So every couple of years the industry moves to a more secure key size for encryption. This basically means it becomes harder and therefore takes longer to try decrypt a message. Currently we use a key size of 2048 bits and are slowly moving over to 4096 bits.

But SSL certificates can't protect you from everything. Just seeing a website that has an SSL doesn't mean it's secure and safe to use. You need to take additional steps yourself to protect yourself online. You need to look at the URL yourself and judge if it is a legitimate website. You need to know that your accounts can still get hacked if you use an insecure password. You need to take time to understand the scams going on in the present day and learn to avoid them. Technology can help you stay secure, but it can also be your enemy if you don't use it correctly.