Merchant's Guide To SSL And Credit Card Processing
If you operate an online business or have a website through which you accept credit card orders, you may need a technology known as Secure Sockets Layer (SSL). While it plays an important role in encrypting and authenticating sensitive data, it can also boost your customers' confidence and trust.
As identity theft and fraudulent credit card activity increases online, consumers are more wary than ever with trusting their personal information to unsecure processes. As a result, more merchants than ever are exploring the advantages – for themselves and their customers – of using a Secure Sockets Layer Certificate.
Below, we'll describe the types of merchants who can get the most out of SSL technology. We'll also explain the basics regarding how it works, including how sensitive data – including credit card information – is encrypted and authenticated.
Who Needs SSL?
To understand why the technology is important online, consider what happens when you call someone on the phone with what you have never spoken. Somebody picks up the line, answers, and the conversation begins. First, how do you know the person on the other end of the connection is your intended target? What identification process exists? Second, how can you be certain that a third party has not snapped into the phone connection in order to eavesdrop on your conversation? That is, how do you ensure privacy?
Now, consider what happens when your customer visits your website to buy something. They're likely to enter their credit card information and submit an order. How do they know they're sending the information to their intended target? Just as important, how can they be sure that nobody is "eavesdropping" on their information? Secure Sockets Layer ensures the entire process is private and contained.
Any retailer who accepts customers' personal information on their website needs an SSL Certificate. Not only does that include credit card numbers, but also passwords, birthdates, social security numbers, and any other data that requires privacy.
Basics Of How The Technology Works
Assuming a Secure Sockets Layer Certificate has been installed on your website, the process begins when your customer accesses a secure page (the URL will start with https). Your site delivers a public key which validates your company's identity. In response, your customer's browser produces a session key. It encrypts all data that is exchanged between your website and the customer's browser during that particular session. This process happens without requiring any action from your customer.
Data Encryption And Authentication
The information that travels between your customer's browser and your website is encrypted by the SSL Certificate. The Certificate is comprised of two separate keys that work together: a public and a private key. The public key handles the encryption of the data while the private key decodes it.
The SSL Certificate also handles the task of authenticating your website. When your customer points his or her browser at a secured page, the browser automatically takes note of the Certificate's presence and identifies its source (in this case, your company). This authentication process is critical. It establishes trust in the same manner that a passport validates your personal identity.
SSL And Processing Credit Cards
Having a Certificate installed on your website does not necessarily give you the ability to process credit card transactions. Rather, it signifies a higher level of trust that your customers can have in your company's identity. As a result, customers who visit your website will be more likely to submit their personal information. That said, processing their credit card transactions still requires having access to a merchant account or an alternative payment processing solution.