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WHAT EXACTLY IS A SECURE SERVER

WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY SECURE?
A lot of folks seem to confuse the concepts of site security with secure servers. One would hope that a secure server (one that uses SSL to communicate) is also somewhat secure from intrusion. The truth is that there is that a secure server will run just fine on a server with little or no security (in the sense of intrusion prevention) on it!

ABOUT PROTOCOLS.
The Internet is based on a collection of services that is referred to as Internet Protocols, hence the term you hear quite often- IP. Each protocol uses its own method of communication, and a different port number. Some of the more common default port numbers are:

  • 80. Regular web pages sent via the HTTP protocol. (hyper text transport protocol)
  • 25. E-mail is sent via SMTP. (send mail transport protocol)
  • 23. Telnet, which is an interactive login session between a terminal and a server.
Typically, port 443 is used for secure server web pages that employ an encryption technique based on what are called Secure Socket Layers (SSL).

HOW IS SSL CALLED?
Since port numbers are not normally displayed on the browser command line, or used in links, the browser has an easy way to specify which protocol should be used to communicate with the server. Here are two popular examples:

  • http://www.site.com/ would be a request for a regular web page using HTTP.
  • ftp://www.site.com/ requests FTP (File Transfer Protocol) access.
Notice that in both the examples, the server name is www. The idea is that the protocol name, not the server name determines which protocol is chosen.

Secure Server Pages are requested using a URL starting with https, such as:

https://www.somedomain.com/
WHAT DOES A SECURE SERVER DO FOR ME?
Operating a secure server (SSL) allows you to conduct e-commerce or other sensitive exchanges of data with your visitors in a way that will hopefuly make them feel more comfortable doing business with you.

SSL provides two basic ingredients of security:

  • Safe Passage of Information: Your data cannot (we hope) be decoded by any party that might intercept the communications.

  • Server Authentication: If your server is granted a certificate by a CA (Certificate Authority), your customer's can protect themselves from being directed to another server that is pretending to be yours by checking the contents of the certificate.




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