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Digital Certificates Protect Security-Critical Data in E-commerce.

You have a store online or thinking to start one.

A digital certificate is what you need next before thinking of having your first customer.

Let me tell you why.

Internet security is one of the most important aspects of successful online business for the e-commerce retailer.

Particularly since customers tend to do online business with organizations and firms that they can trust.

Secured e-commerce communication represents a fundamental component in meeting security-critical demands.

It has enabling the flow of data and information in a manner that the customer can trust.

What does E-commerce involve?

Generally, e-commerce involves selling and shopping for information, services, and products over a computer network via an interconnected digital infrastructure.

  • The automation of information systems based on TCP/IP protocols and internet technologies poses significant challenges in securing the flow of data and information.
  • This is specifically since TCP/ICP protocols cannot accommodate additional demands for data and information security.
  • In addition, access to data and information in transit between vendors and customers by third parties is relatively easy, while these third parties may also have the capacity to insert or alter information and content in transit.

The use of digital certificates is one way through which it is possible to protect user passwords, cryptographic keys, and private security algorithms which are all security-critical data.

Why is your E-Commerce Business at Risk?

You may be wondering what is this E-commerce business?

Electronic commerce refers to business and commercial transactions in which information is transferred online across the internet.

Generally, e-commerce involves different types of business including;

  • music sales and auctions
  • consumer-based retail stores
  • and the trade of services and goods between corporations.

E-commerce enables the electronic exchange of services and goods without the hindrance of distance or time.

With more businesses moving their operations and transactions online, the boundaries between electronic and conventional commerce are becoming increasingly blurred.

Moreover, business to business electronic commerce in which one business may deal with thousands of other businesses as a supplier or customer has become more prevalent.

Businesses are seeking to gain competitive advantage by reducing transaction costs involved in traditional methods.

E-commerce, when implemented effectively and appropriately, provides a more convenient, cheaper, and faster way to exchange services, goods, and information.

digital marketing

Electronic data interchange, in which customers and suppliers set up dedicated information and data links, has been a key enabler of the e-commerce revolution.

This is by providing a cost-effective method for the implementation of multiple and ad hoc data links by the organization

Shopping cart software, which enables the purchase of services/goods and the tracking of customer transactions, is an operating software that ties the different aspects of e-commerce into a cohesive unit for use by businesses.

Although organizations can also use other types of software, turnkey solutions with customizable features are a cost-effective product for;

  • the design
  • editing
  • and maintenance of e-commerce stores.

Security Risks in E-commerce Stores

It is better to be safe than never!

While e-commerce reduces transaction costs and gives organizations a competitive advantage of their traditional brick and mortar-only retail rivals, it also introduces significant risks.

For instance, online payment gateways used in merchant accounts by online retail stores and the associated electronic/digital infrastructure are vulnerable to different types of attacks and intrusions.

payments threats

These inherent technological vulnerabilities have negative consequences for the online retailer, including;

  • the loss of sensitive data
  • the subsequent decline in client confidence and business reputation.

These vulnerabilities to the online store’s electronic/digital infrastructure could result in both direct and indirect financial losses for the customer and the online retailer.

Potential threats facing E-commerce

There are numerous potential threats facing the electronic/digital infrastructure of e-commerce subsystems.

For example, system infiltration or the access of the system by unauthorized persons could result in the modification of information and transaction data with the aim of stealing confidential information and using them for illegal purposes such as credit card fraud.

In addition, persons with the permission to use the e-commerce electronic/digital infrastructure may use its data and information for unauthorized purposes.

browser vulnerabilities

Furthermore, unauthorized persons could install programs such as the ‘Trojan horse’ after infiltrating the e-commerce system.

This enables them to perpetrate future attacks and keep track of the online retailer’s transactions with the aim of committing fraud and transferring payments to unauthorized accounts.

Moreover, an authorized person may also access confidential flow of data and information between customers and retailers or even between retailers and merchant banks.

online security threats

In this case, the unauthorized person could change the data or information flowing across the electronic and digital infrastructure to suit their personal illegal goals.

Service denial is another risk faced by retailers who use the internet to conduct business transactions.

This is where unauthorized and malicious system users could make persistent requests that require the performance or execution of complex tasks thus rendering the e-commerce system unavailable for authorized customers and the retailer.

The ability of one party to negate transactions after they have already occurred is another threat to using the internet for business transactions, especially if the customer has unauthorized access to security-critical data used in enabling online payments for example.

Digital Certificates Protect E-Commerce Business

Wait a minute, we all have security features in our homes, right?

As part of a global computer network, the internet as used for e-commerce is potentially accessible to everyone.

Failure to guarantee security of the electronic infrastructure that enables online retail means that the risk of data theft and loss are very high.

The use of digital certificates is one way through which it is possible to reduce such risks.

Digital certificates are electronic documents that enable authorized users to prove ownership of public keys.

The digital certificate achieves this capability by including information related to the key, the identity of the owner, and the digital signature of entities who verify the authenticity and correctness of the certificate’s contents.

digital certificates protect

When the digital certificate authenticates the validity of the digital signature and the entity responsible for examining the digital certificate trusts its signer, the digital certificate may then sue the public key to enable communication with the key owner.

The signer, in this case, is referred to as the certificate authority and is generally the entity responsible for issuing certificates to the system’s users.

Moreover, the signer is part of a web-of-trust scheme and may either create a self-signed certificate as the key’s owner or may endorse a key for other users whom they trust and know.

Secure sockets layer (SSL) or Transport layer security (TLS) 

These digital certificates constitute a critical element of the secure sockets layer (SSL) or transport layer security (TLS), acting to prevent attackers or unauthorized users from impersonating secure servers or websites; while they can also be used for code signing and business email encryption.

As an electronic ID, the digital certificate supports public key encryption and its associated technology, allowing messaging participants to generate matched encryption key pairs.

These keys, which are stored in key-stores, may either be public keys that are available freely to other messaging participants or private keys that are never transmitted or revealed.

The public key, which is available to other communication participants, is stored together with the digital certificate, which can then be attached to service operations with the aim of authenticating and verifying the identity of senders and also enabling the recipient to encode their response.

Application of Digital Certificates to E-Commerce 

E-commerce is representative of various procedures and technologies that enable the automation of business transactions using electronic devices and infrastructure, with the transfer of data and information through the internet, electronic data interchange (EDI) systems, and/or email.

As aforementioned, modern computer networks on which e-commerce is based are based almost entirely on TCP/IP internet technology.

This is in order to enable the automation of retail information systems; which creates several vulnerabilities that should be mitigated to maintain business reputation and customer trust.

Various digital security firms today manufacture security products that integrate public standard cryptographic algorithms into the security products, with the aim of generating encoded messages that can only be decoded by authorized and authenticated users.

Cryptography techniques allow for the realization of;

  • data confidentiality
  • authentication
  • integrity
  • and non-repudiation.

However, e-commerce systems must also achieve a fifth service, availability, which is not offered by cryptography.

In addition, it involves ensuring that quality information is always available to the authorized user everywhere and at anytime, despite the internet being a public and unsecured communication link.

There has been an on going rumor that google awards sites that are secure online.

How to secure E-commerce Site with Digital certifications

The risks inherent in using e-commerce systems and associated electronic-digital infrastructures can be mitigated or prevented using digital certificates, which are a form of cryptographic product.

To begin with, the online retailer has to purchase certificate authority applications for the generation of digital certificates.

The digital certificates can then be used in several ways to enhance security of electronic infrastructure used in e-commerce.

For instance, through the S/MIME protocol that allows the sending of secured communications such as emails using a digital envelope and digital signature.


Digital certificates as used in e-commerce, specifically to secure online payment processes, are a security concept that uses SSL protocol and asymmetric cryptographic algorithms.

The generation of digital certificates is generally a part of public key infrastructure or PKI, which facilitates the design and implementation of a security infrastructure that creates confidence in the use of electronic business.

As noted, the generation of digital certificates is based on applying asymmetrical and symmetrical cryptographic systems.

The resulting infrastructure, consisting of the electronic infrastructure and associated digital certificates.

It enables the realization of security services including;

  • availability.
  • authentication.
  • data integrity.
  • confidentiality.
  • and the non-repudiation of information.

Digital Certificates Protect Identity

Digital certificates allow the e-commerce retailer to identify a system or a person with as much certainty as possible, while ensuring the privacy of data being transferred from one entity to another.

Essentially, digital certificates securely connect the public key and the carrier’s data, ensuring that the identity of both is authenticated using digital signing; thus playing the role of the main carrier of the digital identity.

There are two forms of digital certificates;

  • One of which is the self-signed certificate that is issued by anyone and can be generated by the online retailer, tending to be used internally.
  • On the other hand, qualified digital signatures are only issued by the certificate authority that is licensed to do so under specific legal conditions.

The qualified digital signature, which is composed of key pairs as aforementioned, is then used for the creation of qualified digital signatures that are legally analogous to regularly signed paper using a pen and/or stamp.

The ability to perform essential functions in e-commerce such as making the purchase and payment simultaneously, as well as to ensure that the customer and vendor are certain of the other’s identity and have recourse in case the trade agreement is broken, is based on the foundation of mutual trust.

Digital certificates provide the basis for this trust by enabling encryption where transactions are conducted with a wide variety of anonymous users.

While other mechanisms such as identity tokens and passwords can also assure trust in e-commerce, they are not as universal or portable as the digital certificate.

As a result, the digital certificate or public key infrastructure which act as intermediaries between digital certificates and encryption keys, can also be used as e-commerce’s intermediary between customers and retailers as well as between business and business (B2B).

Non-Repudiation Concept in Digital Certificates

One of the most important and powerful functions provided by digital certificates in e-commerce is the non-repudiation concept.

Non-repudiation can be compared to the manual signature that one makes on a document with the witnessing of the actual signing by a third party or notary.

In case the signature is denied or disputed, then the 3rd party can give credible testimony as to the signatures authenticity in terms of place and time.

Generating and possessing the key pair, however, is not adequate to ensure that the digital signature cannot be repudiated since possessing the document with the digital signature only allows for determination that the document was signed but does not demonstrate who actually signed the document.

The use of digital certificates mitigates this risk.

This is specifically by ensuring that the recipient can validate the signature on the document is authentic and that the signing private key is the signer’s, as well as identification of the actual signing key pair’s owner.

This trust as required in e-commerce is based on digital certificates and public key infrastructure, while the chain of trust is created and maintained by the public key infrastructure’s certificate chains.

How Digital Certificates works

Digital certificates mitigate various risks in electronic commerce over the internet.

In instances where the public key fails to indicate authorization for its utilization, then it is possible to decrypt a message using a public key which determines that the message was encrypted using a private key corresponding to the public key.

Furthermore, when a digital certificate accompanies the sent message, then there is increased confidence that the person who was issued with this certificate also owns the private key.

As such, where an online retailer has an access control list of persons with the authority to conduct particular functions, then it is possible to verify the authorization of the entity making a request to complete a specific function.

Digital certificates protect and facilitate the integrity of information and data, first by ensuring that the information is not modified intentionally or unintentionally during its transmission through decoding since the encrypted message can be decrypted.

how ssl works

Because commercial cryptographic processes transform data in blocks, changes to even one block or bit will lead to the entire piece of information becoming unreadable.

Perhaps more importantly, digital certificates or public key infrastructure provide online retailers and merchant banks with whom they communicate through online payment gateways with the means to identify electronic transactions, which mitigates security issues such as credit card cloning and information leakage.

This is achieved through the design of an electronic passport in form of the digital certificate, which in turn enables the organization, merchant bank, and consumer to securely exchange information when using the online retailer’s electronic or digital infrastructure.

To ensure that the communications in e-commerce, which are based on a distributed infrastructure over the internet, is safe and secure, digital certificates for e-commerce use must be based on multi-level security architecture.

Furthermore, in order to assure customers about the confidentiality of their information and data stored and transmitted within the online retailer’s electronic infrastructure, it is important to use combined multi-level security systems based on symmetrical and asymmetrical cryptographic systems.

In addition, the online retailer will also rely on smart cards for the generation of digital signatures, as well as digital certificates from the certificate authority.

In Summary

Look! Your online store needs a digital certificate! That’s a must!

Digital certificates allow for the protection of user passwords, cryptographic keys, and private security algorithms which are all security-critical data.

As part of a global computer network, the internet as used for e-commerce should provide several security services including;

  • Availability
  • Authentication
  • Data integrity
  • Confidentiality
  • and the Non-repudiation of information.

Digital certificates represent one form of technology that can ensure the provision of these services, particularly since it uses multi-level security systems based on symmetrical and asymmetrical cryptographic systems.

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