SSL stands for "Secure Sockets Layer". More importantly, it's what stands between you and having someone steal your information. SSL a set of rules computers follow to protect your data during transmission, including:
- Encryption, which guards against eavesdropping.
- Data integrity, which assures that your communications aren't tampered with during transmission.
- Authentication, which verifies that the entities receiving your information are who and what they claim to be.
Before your information goes to a website using SSL, it's turned into a type of code, or encrypted. When the information reaches its destination, it is decrypted or decoded. Anyone who intercepts the information during transmission gets only gibberish. The info sent back to you is also encrypted.
Always make sure a site is secured with SSL before submitting your information. To check a site for SSL, look at the URL in your browser window. An "s" following the "http" (i.e. "https") tells you SSL is in effect. A small padlock symbol also appears in the lower right corner just outside of most browser borders, indicating a secured site. Sites that show the padlock symbol within the browser window itself are usually fraudulent.