What’s the difference between TLS and SSL? Which One Is Best for You?

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What is the difference between TLS and SSL? Which one should you go with?

TLS and SSL are both protocols that aid in the secure authentication and transmission of data over the Internet. But what is the distinction between TLS and SSL? Is it something you should be concerned about?

This article will teach you the key differences between TLS and SSL, and also how both protocols connect to HTTPS. You’ll also discover why, as an end-user, you shouldn’t be concerned about TLS vs SSL or whether you’re using an “SSL certificate” or a “TLS certificate.”

What Is the Difference Between Transport Layer Security (TLS) and Secure Sockets Layer (SSL)?
TLS (Transport Layer Security) and SSL (Secure Socket Layers) are both cryptographic technologies that encrypt data and authenticate connections when it is transmitted over the Internet.

For instance, if your website accepts credit card payments, TLS and SSL can assist you in securely processing that data, ensuring that hostile actors cannot obtain it.

What’s the difference between TLS and SSL?

TLS is, in fact, a more current version of SSL. It addresses several security flaws in earlier SSL systems.

Before diving into the details, it’s critical to grasp the fundamental history of SSL and TLS.

SSL 2.0 was released for the first time in February 1995. (SSL 1.0 was never publicly released because of security flaws). While SSL 2.0 was launched publicly, it featured security weaknesses and was swiftly phased out in 1996 in favor of SSL 3.0.

Then, as an upgrade to SSL 3.0, the first version of TLS (1.0) was launched in 1999. Since then, three additional TLS releases have occurred, the most recent being TLS 1.3 in August 2018.

Both public SSL releases are currently deprecated and contain known security issues (more on this later).

The History of SSL and TLS releases

When you install an SSL/TLS certificate on your web server (often referred to as a “SSL certificate”), the certificate includes a public key and a private key that authenticate your server and enable it to encrypt and decrypt data.

When a visitor comes to your website, their web browser will check for the SSL/TLS certificate for your site. The browser will then initiate a “handshake” in order to validate the authenticity of your certificate and authenticate your server.

If your SSL certificate is invalid, your users may encounter the “your connection is not private” error, prompting them to exit your website.

Once a visitor’s browser verifies the validity of your certificate and authenticates your server, it effectively establishes an encrypted link between it and your server for the purpose of securely transporting data.

Additionally, this is where HTTPS comes into play (HTTPS is an acronym for “HTTP over SSL/TLS”).

HTTP and its successor, HTTP/2, are application protocols that are critical for data transit over the Internet.

That information is vulnerable to attack over plain HTTP. However, when HTTP over SSL or TLS (HTTPS) is used, the data is encrypted and authenticated during transmission, making it secure.

This is why you can properly process credit card information over HTTPS but not over HTTP, and why Google Chrome is promoting HTTPS usage so aggressively.

If SSL is deprecated, why is it called an SSL certificate?

Why is it called an SSL Certificate if SSL Is deprecated?

You learned in the preceding section that TLS is a more current version of SSL and that both public releases of SSL have been deprecated for several years and have known security issues.

This may have you asking why the certificate is referred to as an SSL certificate and not a TLS certificate. After all, TLS is a cutting-edge, secure technology.

For instance, if you visit the WebHostingHub features page, you’ll notice that WebHostingHub advertises a complimentary SSL certificate, not a complimentary TLS certificate.

Not to worry: WebHostingHub does not employ antiquated technology!

The majority of people continue to refer to them as SSL certificates due to a branding issue. Because the majority of significant certificate providers continue to refer to certificates as SSL certificates, the naming pattern endures.

In actuality, all of the offered “SSL Certificates” are actually SSL/TLS Certificates (that includes the free SSL certificates that we offer as part of our Cloudflare integration).

That is, you can use your certificate with both the SSL and TLS protocols.

There is no such thing as a single SSL or TLS certificate, and you are not required to replace your SSL certificate with a TLS certificate.

Which Protocol Should You Use: TLS or SSL? Is TLS Taking the Place of SSL?

The short answer, yes. TLS has surpassed SSL. Additionally, you should utilize TLS rather than SSL if you have the option.

As previously stated, both public releases of SSL are deprecated due to known security issues. As a result, SSL remains an insecure protocol throughout 2019 and beyond.

TLS, the more recent counterpart to SSL, is a secure protocol. Additionally, recent versions of TLS include performance and other enhancements.

Not only is TLS more secure and performant, but the majority of current online browsers have deprecated SSL 2.0 and 3.0 functionality.

For example, Google Chrome discontinued support for SSL 3.0 in 2014, while the majority of major browsers plan to discontinue support for TLS 1.0 and 1.1 in 2020.

Indeed, Google Chrome now displays ERR SSL OBSOLETE VERSION warnings.

Therefore, how do you ensure that you are using the latest TLS versions and not older, unsafe SSL protocols?

To begin, keep in mind that your certificate is distinct from the protocol that your server utilizes.

You are not required to modify your certificate in order to use TLS. While your certificate may be labeled as a “SSL certificate,” it already supports both the SSL and TLS protocols.

Rather than that, you control which protocol is used by your website at the server level.

If you purchased your SSL Certificate through Namecheap, Namecheap automatically configures TLS 1.3, the most recent, safe, and performant version, as well as TLS 1.2.

If you host your site with another provider, you can use the SSL Labs tool to determine which protocols are enabled on your site.

For instance, if you test a website hosted by Namecheap, you can observe how Namecheap activates TLS 1.2 and 1.3 while disabling earlier, insecure SSL versions:

If your server continues to support outdated SSL protocols, you can contact your host for assistance or follow these instructions to disable SSL on two of the most common web servers (Apache and Nginx):

Disable TLS 1.0 and 1.1 in Apache and Nginx

Is TLS better than SSL?

Yes, TLS is taking over SSL. TLS is better than SSL.

There are a lot of security flaws in both public versions of SSL, so they’re being phased out a lot of the time. This means SSL isn’t going to be completely safe in 2019 and the years to come.

It is safe to use TLS, which is a newer version of SSL. What’s more, recent versions of TLS also improve performance and make other changes.

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