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Blog Post Aug 24, 2023

What Is TLS and How Google Uses It

As online transactions become the norm and vast amounts of sensitive information are exchanged digitally, businesses must safeguard their confidential data and customer information. Robust encryption technologies are essential for protecting organizations from cyberattacks while complying with increasingly stringent data privacy regulations. As such, Transport Layer Security (TLS) certificates have become mandatory for virtually all business websites. Here's what you need to know about this cybersecurity protocol.

Table of Contents

TLS meaning: What is TLS?

TLS is a cryptographic protocol for securing communication over computer networks, including the internet. It ensures the confidentiality, authenticity, and integrity of data transmitted between two systems (e.g., a web browser and a website server) while protecting against unauthorized access, tampering, or eavesdropping.

The TLS security protocol is crucial for safeguarding sensitive information like passwords, credit card details, personal data, and confidential correspondences. It prevents hackers from intercepting or deciphering the content with robust encryption.

TLS 1.0 was introduced to replace Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) as a more secure protocol. TLS 1.2 and TLS 1.3 offer further security improvements:

  • TLS 1.2 provides robust encryption algorithms and hash functions most suitable for secure communications.
  • TLS 1.3 offers enhanced security and performance by reducing handshake latency and removing outdated cryptographic algorithms.
SSL vs TLS certificates


The TLS protocol addresses the security vulnerabilities inherent in an SSL certificate by providing enhanced cybersecurity features, more robust encryption algorithms, and improved negotiation methods. For example, the SSL protocol uses Message Authentication Codes (MACs) for message authentication, while TLS uses the improved Hash-Based Message Authentication Codes (HMACs).


Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) is one of the core protocols of the internet's communication layer, on top of which TLS operates. When a TCP connection is established between a client and a server, the TLS handshake occurs as the client and server negotiate encryption algorithms and establish a secure communication channel for reliable data transmission.


Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) combines the standard HTTP protocol and TLS. When a user accesses a website over HTTPS, the web client and server perform a TLS handshake to establish a secure encrypted connection. This protects sensitive data transmitted between the browser and the website.

How TLS encryption works

A TLS connection is initiated with a TLS handshake—a sequence that establishes a secure connection for data transmission when a user navigates to a website with a TLS certificate. The process ensures that the client device and web server agree on encryption algorithms (i.e., cipher suites) and cryptographic keys for secure communication.

The TLS handshake process

The process follows these steps:

  1. The client sends a "hello" message to the server to communicate the highest TLS version it supports and the encryption algorithms it can use.
  2. The server responds by choosing the highest TLS version and cipher suite supported by both the server and client.
  3. The server sends its digital certificate to the client with the server's public key to verify its identity.
  4. The client generates a pre-master key, encrypted by the server’s public key and decrypted by the server’s private key in the key exchange process.
  5. The client and server use the pre-master key to generate session keys for encrypting and decrypting data during the session.
  6. The client and server exchange messages to confirm that the handshake is complete.

Results of a TLS handshake

Data transmission can begin once the client and server agree on encryption parameters and exchange cryptographic keys. The encryption ensures that even if unauthorized parties intercept the messages, the data remains unreadable and, therefore, secure.

The importance of TLS

TLS certificates are essential components of any website in today's threat landscape. In particular, it's crucial for handling sensitive financial data, customer information, and other critical files (e.g., intellectual properties.)

Here's why every business should use TLS:

  • Prevent cyberattacks and data breaches

TLS encryption helps protect confidential information and sensitive customer data such as login credentials, personal details, and payment data from interception and unauthorized access. It's particularly critical for ecommerce sites that handle transactions online or companies in the healthcare and financial sector that collect personal information digitally.

  • Support secure website transactions

TLS gives users the confidence that the entity they're interacting with is legitimate. It helps businesses foster trust, build a positive reputation, and encourage recurring purchases. In fact, without secure web transactions, it would be impossible for ecommerce sites to conduct business while keeping customers safe.

  • Improve online presence

Search engines prioritize HTTPS websites over unsecured ones (HTTP) in their ranking algorithms. A TLS certificate can help you improve your SEO ranking to increase visibility, protect your reputation, and drive more traffic to your site. Also, a web browser may display warning messages when users try to access an unsecured website, discouraging them from proceeding.

  • Build trust and retain customers

Consumers are more likely to buy from brands they trust, and 72% of shoppers are less likely to buy again from a company that doesn't take care of their data. A secure connection is critical for driving traffic, attracting shoppers, ensuring they complete the transaction, and encouraging them to return to your business.

How Google Uses TLS

Google Chrome relies on SSL/TLS to ensure secure connections between users and websites. It encourages websites to adopt TLS 1.2 and TLS 1.3 for enhanced security and is phasing out older, less secure versions. Meanwhile, Google will reduce the maximum validity for public TLS certificates to 90 days to support better online security.

Google Chrome validates TLS certificates presented by websites during the TLS handshake. It displays a warning indicating potential risks to users if the certificate is invalid, expired, or issued by an untrusted certificate authority (CA). This message erodes trust and discourages potential customers from visiting the site. Chrome also blocks HTTP content on HTTPS pages, so make sure to serve all your content via HTTPS connections.

Additionally, Google's search engine uses HTTPS as a ranking factor. Websites starting with HTTPS are more likely to appear higher on search engine results pages, making TLS critical for improving visibility and driving organic traffic. Since Google has a market share of 85.53%, you can't afford to ignore its ranking algorithms if you want to boost your online presence and get found by more customers.

Effective TLS certificate management

TLS certificate management is more critical than ever, especially with Google shortening the certificate validity period. An expired certificate can cause outages and disruptions—impacting the user experience, hurting your reputation, costing you sales, exposing you to data security risks, and affecting your search ranking.

While tracking a handful of TLS certificates may sound simple enough, organizations often have hundreds, if not thousands, of digital certificates they must renew and manage continuously. Sectigo helps you consolidate and automate the workflows to ensure nothing falls through the cracks. For example, you can purchase your TLS certificates and perform lifecycle management for all digital certificates from a single dashboard.

Learn more about the Sectigo Certificate Manager and start your free trial today.

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