What Is SSL Mode?

by G.D. Palmer

SSL, or Secure Sockets Layer, is a method of providing a secure browser connection for viewing Web pages, email and other online data. It relies on a series of digital certificates that identify each server before a secure connection is created. All of the information that your browser transfers over this connection will be encrypted to ensure privacy. Many electronic devices and software applications come with an optional SSL mode that allows you to choose whether or not you want to use this form of security.

Application SSL Modes

By default, Web browsers access pages securely when the server has an SSL certificate and insecurely when not prompted for a secure connection. A few browsers work with plugins that provide a secure connection to any website. Other applications, such as Web email and online server administration software, offer an optional SSL mode to protect sensitive data, such as your login name and password.

SSL Mode for Mobile Phones

Mobile phones with integrated Web browsers and other software that accesses the Internet may also provide an SSL mode. This allows you to get the same privacy on your phone as on your desktop or laptop computer. When you are browsing in SSL mode, you may see a lock icon in one corner of your screen. This icon disappears when SSL is unavailable or when you have manually turned this function off.

Benefits of SSL Mode

When you use a device or application in SSL mode, you increase the security of your connection. While SSL is not a completely fool-proof security feature, it does prevent third parties from picking up your information, especially when you are using public wireless connections. SSL mode offers a convenient way to keep your personal and financial information between you and a known service provider, such as your email host.

When to Disable SSL Mode

While SSL mode offers a number of advantages, it isn't right for every situation. In some cases, it can slow down traffic over an unreliable connection. SSL mode can also cause problems when some of the information you receive is unencrypted. This inesecure information may prompt annoying alerts and can be blocked by some applications. In these cases, it's usually wise to disable your application or device's SSL mode temporarily, reenabling it once you finish your task.

Warning

Never disable SSL mode while you are engaged in a financial transaction or otherwise submitting sensitive information, even if you are having trouble with your SSL connection. Removing this layer of protection could potentially expose your data to unscrupulous people, increasing the risk of identity theft or financial issues.

About the Author

G.D. Palmer is a freelance writer and illustrator living in Milwaukee, Wis. She has been producing print and Web content for various organizations since 1998 and has been freelancing full-time since 2007. Palmer holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in writing and studio art from Beloit College in Beloit, Wis.

Photo Credits

  • photo_camera Thomas Northcut/Photodisc/Getty Images