What is Verisign Certification?

by Jared Paventi

During the Internet boom of the 1990s, the ability to transmit sensitive information in a secure manner was in high demand. The popularity and success of e-commerce websites was predicated on the seller's ability to securely receive personal information like names, addresses and phone numbers and payment details. VeriSign opened its doors in 1995, touting the ability to provide highly secure methods for completing transactions. VeriSign offered not only the infrastructure to facilitate payment, but a certification for merchants that met a particular standard for security.

What is VeriSign?

A spinoff of the international firm RSA Security, Digital Certificates International began operation in 1995 and later changed its name to VeriSign. The original intent of the company was to provide the secure transfer of data from computer to computer. It was a pioneer in the field and would eventually grow to become the largest authenticator of Internet data, issuing more than 3 million security certificates since its inception. Its worldwide headquarters are in Mountain View, California.

Secure Sites

Savvy Internet users know that there are two ways to determine if a website is secure. First, the address of the website with change. Instead of the prefix "http", it will read "https" for hyper text transfer protocol secured. Second, the web browser will display a padlock on the bottom of its window. Both of these actions signify that the site carries a valid security certificate.

Insuring Security

VeriSign employs encrypts data sent over its channels. This translates the data into code which can only be translated by one of VeriSign's encryption servers. Anyone who successfully gains access to the data will only find lines of letters and numbers in an unintelligible order. VeriSign uses 128-bit encryption, which assigns up to 128 characters for every one character of private data. The data is transmitted over a secured socket layer (SSL), which is a component of a web browser. Data sent through an SSL is shipped through a secure channel from the computer to the website, adding a second layer of security.

Meaning of Certification

The VeriSign Secured Seal is purchased by a website to assure visitors that their information will remain private. In order to qualify, a company must purchase a 128-bit SSL certificate from VeriSign. The seal can then be purchased from VeriSign and placed on the site. In addition to providing a secure platform, it also provides credibility to shoppers concerned with identity theft. According to its own 2006 research study, 79 percent of American online shoppers know the VeriSign seal and what it means.

Who Uses VeriSign

VeriSign touts a customer base of more than 95,000 websites, with more than 1 million active SSL certificates. Customers include ebay, PayPal, Overstock.com, Charles Schwab, Orvis, Orbitz, Travelocity, Microsoft and the Kodak EasyShare Gallery. Basic VeriSign services with a $100,000 warranty cost $399 per server per year. It's most feature-rich product is $1,499 per server per year and carries a $250,000 warranty.

About the Author

Jared Paventi is the communications director for a disease-related nonprofit in the Northeast. He holds a master's degree from Syracuse University's S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communication and a bachelor's degree from St. Bonaventure University. He also writes a food appreciation blog: Al Dente.