Secure Sockets Layer or SSL and Transport Layer Security or TLS are cryptographic protocols used to establish a secure connection between computer networks. Specifically, both are protocols for securing different types of Internet communication such as web browsing, electronic mail, instant messaging, and voice over Internet protocol. Websites that use a TLS certification are secured under a Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure or HTTPS extension.
SSL vs. TLS: What is the Difference?
There is some degree of confusion regarding the difference between SSL and TLS. It is important to note that Transport Layer Security is the successor of Secure Sockets Layer. The open-standards organization Internet Engineering Task Force or IETF has now deprecated SSL with the prohibition of its 2.0 standard in 2011 and its 3.0 standard in 2015. In other words, TLS is now the dominant and recognized protocol for securing network communications, including web browsing.
Both SSL and TLS are fundamentally similar. In secured web browsing, for example, both use certificates to authenticate and encrypt connections between web browsers and web servers. They have been used for websites that collect sensitive user information such as contact information and payment details. Hence, cryptographic protocols have become a standard for e-commerce sites or online storefronts, as well as web-based email applications, among others.
Secure Socket Layer has several vulnerabilities discovered by researchers. For example, in 2014, SSL 3.0 was found vulnerable to type of a man-in-the-middle exploit called POODLE attack that intercepts and decrypts encrypted communication between a browser and a web server. The IETF has finally declared that SSL is not sufficiently secure.
Transport Layer Security has become the successor to SSL. The most recent version of the TLS standard has significant differences over SSL. Such include a separate key agreement and authentication algorithms, removal of support for weak and outdated cryptographic protocols, use of more advanced protocols, and prohibition of backward compatibility involving SSL and RCD negotiation, among others.
A Note on the Difference Between SSL and TLS
Remember that Secure Sockets Layer is now considered as outdated and Transport Layer Security is currently the recognized protocol for securing network communications. However, the acronym “SSL” is still thrown around by researchers, certificate vendors and security companies, and the public in general. In other words, “SSL” is often used interchangeably with TLS. Some also use the term “SSL/TLS” to refer to TLS.