What are SSL Certificates and Formats?

4 min


An SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate is a type of digital certificate that is used to establish a secure, encrypted connection between a web server and a client’s web browser. SSL certificates are often used to secure online transactions and protect sensitive information, such as login credentials and credit card numbers, from being intercepted by hackers.

SSL certificates use a public key and a private key to establish a secure connection. The public key is contained in the SSL certificate and is used to encrypt data transmitted between the server and client. The private key is kept secret by the web server and is used to decrypt the data.

SSL certificates are issued by organizations known as certificate authorities (CAs). These organizations are responsible for verifying the identity of the website owner and issuing SSL certificates to websites that pass their validation process. When a client’s web browser connects to a website with an SSL certificate, the certificate is checked against a list of trusted CAs to ensure that it is valid. If the certificate is valid, the web browser establishes a secure connection with the web server.

SSL certificates are commonly used to secure online transactions on e-commerce websites, as well as to protect login pages and other sensitive areas of websites. They are also used to secure email communications and other types of online communication.

SSL Certificates File Extension Formats

There are several types of SSL certificate formats that are in use today:

  1. PEM (Privacy Enhanced Mail) format: This is the most common format used for SSL certificates. PEM files contain ASCII base64-encoded data and are usually stored in files with a .pem, .crt, or .cer extension.
  2. DER (Distinguished Encoding Rules) format: This is a binary format that is used to store SSL certificates. DER files are usually stored in files with a .der extension.
  3. PKCS#7: This format is used to store certificate chains (a set of certificates that form a trust chain). PKCS#7 files are usually stored in files with a .p7b or .p7c extension.
  4. PKCS#12: This format is used to store private keys, public keys, and certificates in a single file. PKCS#12 files are usually stored in files with a .p12 or .pfx extension.

It’s important to note that SSL certificates can be encoded in different formats, but the actual content of the certificate remains the same regardless of the encoding format.

1. PEM FORMAT

PEM (Privacy Enhanced Mail) is a base64-encoded version of DER (Distinguished Encoding Rules) format, which is commonly used to store X509 certificates and SSL keys. PEM files typically have a .pem, .crt, or .cer file extension.

A PEM file consists of a sequence of sections, each of which starts with a “—–BEGIN” line and ends with a “—–END” line. The content of each section is base64-encoded, and the sections are separated by a blank line. Here is an example of a PEM file containing a single X509 certificate:

-----BEGIN CERTIFICATE-----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2. DER FORMAT

DER (Distinguished Encoding Rules) is a standardized format for encoding digital certificates and certificate revocations lists (CRLs). It is used to encode data in a binary format so that it can be transmitted over networks or stored in a file. DER is a subset of the BER (Basic Encoding Rules) format, and is used for encoding data in a more strict and efficient way.

In DER, data is encoded using a series of tags and length fields, which define the type and length of the data being encoded. The data itself is then encoded using a specific encoding method, such as ASCII or UTF-8, depending on the type of data being encoded.

DER is often used in conjunction with the X.509 standard, which defines the format for public key certificates, to create a digital certificate that can be used for secure communication over the internet.

3. PKCS#7 FORMAT

PKCS#7 (Public Key Cryptography Standard #7) is a standard for cryptographic message syntax that defines a generic syntax for data that may have digital signatures applied to it and/or encrypted. It is commonly used to digitally sign, encrypt, or decrypt messages in a variety of applications, including SSL/TLS (Secure Sockets Layer/Transport Layer Security) and S/MIME (Secure/Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions).

In the PKCS#7 format, data is represented as a sequence of octets (8-bit bytes) that is either signed or encrypted, or both. The data may include attachments and other related information, as well as the actual message or content being transmitted.

The PKCS#7 format is defined in RFC 2315, which is available from the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) website.

4. PKCS#12 FORMAT

PKCS#12 (Public Key Cryptography Standard #12) is a standard for storing and transporting cryptographic materials, such as X.509 public key certificates and private keys. It is commonly used to store personal identity information, such as a user’s private keys, certificates, and other sensitive information, in a secure and portable format.

In the PKCS#12 format, cryptographic materials are stored in a container, known as a PKCS#12 file or a “PFX,” which is encrypted and protected with a password. The PKCS#12 file can be used to securely transport cryptographic materials between different systems or to store them for later use.

The PKCS#12 format is defined in RFC 7292, which is available from the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) website. It is widely used in a variety of applications, including SSL/TLS (Secure Sockets Layer/Transport Layer Security) and S/MIME (Secure/Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions).

See Also

Convert .Crt Certificates

Convert .crt to .Cer

Convert .crt to .jks

Convert .crt to .pem

Convert .crt to .der

Convert .crt to .p7b

Convert .crt to p12

Convert .Cer Certificates

Convert .cer to crt

Convert .cer to .jks

Convert .cer to .pem

Convert .cer to .der

Convert .cer to .p7b

Convert .cer to .p12

Convert .jks Certificates

Convert .jks to cer

Convert .jks to .pem

Convert .jks to .der

Convert .jks to .p7b

Convert .jks to .p12

Convert .jks to .crt

Convert .pem Certificates

Convert .pem to .crt

Convert .pem to .jks

Convert .pem to .cer

Convert .pem to .der

Convert .pem to .p7b

Convert .pem to .p12

Convert .der Certificates

Convert .der to .pem

Convert .der to .crt

Convert .der to .jks

Convert .der to .cer

Convert .der to .p7b

Convert .der to .p12

Convert .p7b Certificates

Convert .p7b to .der

Convert .p7b to .pem

Convert .p7b to .jks

Convert .p7b to .cer

Convert .p7b to .crt

Convert .p7b to .p12

Convert .p12 Certificates

Convert .p12 to .crt

Convert .p12 to .p7b

Convert .p12 to .der

Convert .p12 to .pem

Convert .p12 to .jks

Convert .p12 to .cer

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