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Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) and its successor, Transport Layer Security (TLS), are cryptographic protocols designed to provide secure communication over a computer network. SSL was first developed by Netscape in the mid-1990s to secure internet connections, ensuring that data sent between a client (such as a web browser) and a server is encrypted and protected from interception.

SSL operates by establishing a secure, encrypted link between the client and server. This process begins with a handshake, where both parties agree on the cryptographic keys to use during the session. The handshake includes several steps: the client and server exchange encryption algorithms, the server provides a digital certificate (often issued by a trusted Certificate Authority, or CA) to authenticate its identity, and secure symmetric keys are generated and exchanged.

Over time, SSL’s vulnerabilities led to the development of TLS by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). TLS 1.0, introduced in 1999, improved security and performance, addressing several of SSL’s weaknesses. TLS maintains a similar handshake process but uses more robust cryptographic algorithms and includes additional features such as better message authentication and key material generation processes.

TLS has seen multiple updates, with versions 1.1, 1.2, and the current 1.3, released in 2018. TLS 1.3 offers significant improvements in both security and performance, simplifying the handshake process to reduce latency and eliminating outdated cryptographic algorithms that are vulnerable to attacks.

Both SSL and TLS are crucial for securing internet transactions, such as online banking, email communication, and e-commerce. The use of these protocols is indicated by the “https://” prefix in web URLs, with the “s” standing for “secure.” Modern web browsers and servers predominantly support TLS, with SSL being largely deprecated.

SSL and TLS have been fundamental in ensuring secure and private communications over the internet. While SSL laid the groundwork, TLS has evolved to provide stronger, more efficient, and more secure connections, safeguarding data integrity and privacy in our digital world.