It’s no secret that having an SSL certificate on your site is vital to its overall security. That’s why it’s more common for sites to have one installed rather than not in 2023. It’s also why popular web browsers have begun penalizing sites without SSL, flagging them as “not secure” to would-be visitors. Furthermore, many savvy Internet users now expect to see the trusty SSL padlock symbol in the address bar of every site they visit.
Even so, some still wonder whether an SSL is as secure as people say. Can an SSL be hacked?
The answer to that is probably not. However, although an SSL is unlikely to be compromised by malicious actors, an SSL alone won’t prevent your site from being hacked. Read on to find out why.
What is an SSL and what does it do?
An SSL is a digital certificate that fosters an encrypted connection between a client and a server. The most common iteration is between a browser and a website, so that’s what we’ll talk about today.
When someone using a web browser attempts to visit a website with an SSL installed, the browser and server will perform something called the SSL handshake. It’s a complex process that involves each party verifying and authenticating the other, ultimately exchanging special keys that can be used to encrypt and decrypt information sent over the connection.
Encryption makes it so that when a user sends information to the server (for example, filling out a form or logging in with a password), it can’t be read by malicious actors. If someone manages to intercept it, all they will see is scrambled data that can only be decrypted by the intended recipient with the special key.
All this is made possible by something called the TLS protocol, a cryptographic protocol.
Why an SSL is unlikely to be hacked
The only way to truly “hack” an SSL would be to crack its key. Current SSL certificates come with 256-bit encryption. This means an SSL key is made up of 256 characters. To guess, you’d need to successfully find the correct combination of characters out of a potential of 2256 possible combinations. To put it into perspective, it would currently take the world’s fastest supercomputer billions of years to crack an SSL key.
That’s why so-called SSL vulnerabilities you may have heard about don’t tend to be about the SSL itself and often need to be executed in very precise circumstances. For example, Heartbleed was caused by a fault in input validation in upstream implementation rather than the TLS standard, while the Raccoon vulnerability was a server/client configuration issue. And because SSL and TLS frequently undergo rigorous testing and security audits from security researchers and cryptographers, any potential flaws and weaknesses are patched regularly.
By using only an SSL from a reputable Certificate Authority, ensuring you use the latest version of TLS, and properly configuring your server, your SSL is extremely unlikely to be compromised.
Why your site still may not be completely safe
As you probably noticed, SSL has an exact function — securing data in transit between two permitted parties. It does not secure data at rest or protect against myriad other potential security vulnerabilities. So while it is an essential part of any security arsenal, you must take additional precautions to keep your site safe, including:
- Performing regular site scans: This will probe your entire site for potential vulnerabilities and threats.
- Setting up a Web Application Firewall (WAF): This will prevent malicious traffic from reaching your site.
- Updating software and plugins regularly: Out-of-date software makes it easy for hackers to access a website’s backend, so don’t neglect regular updates.
- Practicing good password hygiene: Simple passwords are easy to crack, so ensure your site admin passwords are at least 12 characters long with a mix of letters, numbers, and symbols. Change them often.
Get a free SSL with Shared Hosting
Hosting your website with Spaceship takes the hassle out of SSL. Not only does it come for free with every Shared Hosting package, but it will be installed automatically, usually within a few minutes of setup. We’re also partnered with Sectigo, one of the world’s leading CAs, so you can be sure your website’s encryption is in good hands.
This is all part of the Spaceship platform’s connected state, where you can also connect and manage your hosting, domains, email services, and other products together to take complete control of your digital set-up and future.
So if you’re looking for a world of total connected safety and simplicity… It’s closer than you think.