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TLS vs SSL: What’s The Difference?

Technology has revolutionised our lives, but it also brings with it potential risks and threats.

In today’s digital world of hybrid working, colleagues can collaborate and share information from almost any device and location through the cloud. It is transforming how we work, but sadly those same technological advances are also being utilised for malicious purposes. Cyber-attacks are getting more sophisticated every day, and organisations need to take steps to protect themselves.

If you or your organisation have a website, you will likely come across the acronyms TLS and SSL. However, just because you’ve heard of them doesn’t mean you know what they are, their role in security, and why they’re essential. It probably doesn’t help that TLS and SSL are sometimes confused and conflated too. In addition, TLS and SSL aren’t just about keeping external facing websites safe either. These cryptographic security protocols also play a key role in network security, helping to keep both your business network and home network safe. Changes in the workplace landscape have made network-connected printers and scanners even greater targets for cyberattacks. TLS is one of the protocols and in-device security features built into Brother devices to reinforce your network security and give you extra peace of mind. So, what is TLS? What is SSL? And what is the difference between them?

What is TLS?

TLS stands for Transport Layer Security. It is an end-to-end encryption protocol for protecting data sent via the internet.

The purpose of TLS is to prevent hackers from being able to read information during data transfers. Without this encryption, your bank details, passwords, and other personal information would be visible during transmission. TLS is used to keep emails, online chats, and video calls private and works by using both symmetric and asymmetric cryptography. You will also find it installed on professional printers and scanners, alongside other in-device security features such as Automatic Intrusion Detection, Digitally Signed Firmware, and Secure Print Advanced, designed to prevent information from documents being accessed or intercepted.

As well as encrypting any readable data, TLS verifies the server’s identity and establishes secure communication between two computers on the internet or between networks. This authentication process is often referred to as a ‘handshake’. Once a website has implemented TLS (or SSL), it will have HTTPS in its URL rather than HTTP. And if you’ve ever seen a closed padlock symbol in secure web browsing, then you’ve already used TLS.

What is SSL?

SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer. First introduced in 1995, SSL was the first encryption protocol for internet security, designed to protect and safeguard information and keep websites secure.

SSL actually predates TLS, and there have been several versions of SSL over the years. TLS was initially an update to SSL but then effectively replaced it and became the industry standard. However, despite this, SSL is still commonly referred to when people talk about encryption protocols, and the two acronyms, SSL and TLS, have become interchangeable.

Today, you are most likely to see the former term concerning SSL certificates. These certificates, issued by a Certificate Authority (CA), help authenticate a website’s identity and verify to visitors that it can be trusted. One of the main reasons they were introduced was to shut down fake websites and scammers impersonating legitimate businesses.

There are several SSL certificates and different validation levels, from the most basic (domain) to the most rigorous (extended). They are not just crucial for security either; SSL certificates significantly impact SEO (search engine optimisation) rankings. In short, if you don’t have one, your website will be less visible and ranked lower by the likes of Google. This is obviously important for businesses and organisations of all kinds.

What’s the difference between TLS and SSL?

Both TLS and SSL are encryption protocols, but they operate in different ways. The original SSL has also fallen mostly out of use. When people refer to SSL today, they are usually talking about TLS. Similarly, SSL certificates are also known as TLS certificates. As we explained above, these certificates authenticate websites through a handshake to keep your data private and websites safe from cyber-attacks. TLS has an equally important role in network security, helping to keep business and home networks safe, and preventing network-connected devices, such as printers and scanners, from being potential security risks.

Summary

TLS and SSL perform an essential function when it comes to online, network, and device security. While the acronyms of these protocols and their shared history might seem confusing at first, their value to businesses and other organisations cannot be overstated.

They protect your network, prevent cyber-attacks, validate your website, safeguard your data, documents, and devices, authenticate your identity, and improve SEO rankings; TLS and SSL are essential, especially in light of the new security challenges presented by hybrid offices.

 

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