SSL vs TLS: The Key Differences Between These Protocols

When people speak about SSL/TLS certificates, they’re talking about X.509 digital files that allow websites to be served through HTTPS with the use of public key encryption (using the protected TLS protocol on top of the weak HTTP connection). So, are they the same for SSL and TLS? Not full. But if they are distinct, then why do they use the words interchangeably? Well, there’s a two-fold answer:

  • Since both protocols are safe and establish encrypted communications via HTTPS between the web server and the client (browser).
  • People are reluctant to adapt, and there are plenty of words to learn about IT. People are familiar with SSL, so referring to TLS as SSL makes it easier to just keep walking.

But the reason why they are distinct is that the SSL protocol’s successor is TLS. So, what is this going to mean? SSL and TLS protocols vary in their features, message verification, warning messages, record protocol, and security strengths when contrasting SSL versus TLS. In fact, they also differ in terms of the process known as “SSL/TLS handshake.” When both sides (client and server) communicate with each other, this process is carried out.

Essentially, this handshake mechanism is responsible for:

  • Determining the encryption form that will be used in the transaction to protect the records,
  • Server authentication (or both parties), and
  • Session keys generation/exchange that will be used in the transaction.

SSL vs TLS: How SSL and TLS Establish Connections

The distinction between how SSL and TLS both create relations is crucial to remember. The SSL handshake, for instance, allows clear connections through a socket. On the other hand, TLS makes implicit connections simpler through protocol.

This handshake works on unique “cipher suites” methods/algorithms. Although there are many variations between SSL and TLS, the basic difference between SSL and TLS lies in these cipher suites that play an essential role in connection security.

A key exchange algorithm, authentication/validation algorithm, bulk encryption algorithm, and message authentication code (MAC) algorithm are part of a cipher set. Each SSL/TLS version has its own supported cipher suite package, and newer versions continue to provide more stable cipher suites that increase communication protection and performance.

So, SSL and TLS vary in several respects, as you can see. Here’s a rundown of all the distinctions and how to distinguish between SSL and TLS:

SSL stands for “Secure Socket Layer.” TLS stands for “Transport Layer Security.”
Netscape developed the first version of SSL in 1995. The first version of TLS was developed by the Internet Engineering Taskforce (IETF) in 1999.
SSL is a cryptographic protocol that uses explicit connections to establish secure communication between web server and client. TLS is also a cryptographic protocol that provides secure communication between web server and client via implicit connections. It’s the successor of SSL protocol.
Three versions of SSL have been released: SSL 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0. Four versions of TLS have been released: TLS 1.0, 1.1, 1.2, and 1.3.
All versions of SSL have been found vulnerable, and they all have been deprecated. TLS 1.0 and 1.1 have been “broken” and are deprecated as of March 2020. TLS 1.2 is the most widely deployed protocol version.

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