A free SSL certificate means that you don’t have to pay for the security it offers. SSL stands for “Secure Socket Layers” and this is the encryption that assures the security in a website. The encrypted information can only be deciphered by your browser and the secured server.
With a SSL certificate, all the information between the two is encrypted and is kept from the public eye. The idea is to make a third party unable to access and decipher the information, like credit card and checking account numbers and personal information like Social Security numbers and home addresses. SSL certificates have to be verified and authenticated, meaning the sender and receiver both have to prove they are who they say they are.
SSL certificates are available for free, but don’t offer the same level of security as certificate that’s paid for. There are more downsides to having a SSL certificate that is free than a paid certificate with a higher level of security. But at the very least, a free certificate can provide simple verification of the domain name of the sender.
Free certificates aren’t trusted when they pop up on a site, but even if they are trustworthy, they can be made to look like a site that can’t be trusted. They seem to run slower and the perceived reliability factor is much lower. Utilizing an unpaid SSL Certificate for secured payments is not recommended, but it still might be considered safer than having someone steal credit card information in a store. It’s not uncommon for these certificates to come with unwanted bundles of Internet applications that the user might not want.
Paid certificates offer greater security. They will verify the physical reality of a company. Only corporations can be given a higher level of comprehensive background checks and are the most expensive certificates that are sold. These certificates check the name of the domain and the associated telephone number and authority of the individual making the transaction.
Better SSL certificate service providers are quick to resolve issues, provide a seal (to assure customers that the site is secure), give vulnerability assessments to avoid hacking, prevent blacklisting by search engines (when malware is found on a website), offer warranties, and have refund policies.
When a free certificate can’t be trusted, the firm that issues it has a revocation list, which invalidates the certificate. When the firm that gives free certificates is no longer trusted, their entire string of certificates is invalidated by a browser and failure to trust occurs. For this reason, free certificates are thought to be trusted because their browsers know who to trust.
What it boils down to is how much protection do you need to run a profitable business? If you have high volume sales, the cost of a high level SSL certificate will pay for itself in cost savings from fraudulent credit card use, electronic theft of customer information, and other forms of online interference that can negatively affect a business. If you don’t have vital information worth stealing, a free SSL certificate can still offer minimal protection.