What is a certificate?

A certificate (more properly called a public-key certificate in this context) is an electronic document that is signed by a certification authority asserting the binding between identifying information and a public key that can be used to authenticate the entity to which the identifying information applies.

As a minimum, the identifying information includes a domain name, and the browser verifies that the URL displayed in its address bar is in the domain identified by the certificate.


The certification authority’s public key can be used to verify its signature on a certificate. If the certificate is valid and the domain it contains includes the URL displayed in the browser’s address bar, then the browser will display a padlock icon.
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