What is a CSR Request?

Today's world is an intricately bound, interconnected web. People and entities are exposed to one another like never before. This is both a marvelous blessing and an invitation to malicious hackers to take advantage of this unprecedented contact between users of the omnipresent digital framework for their own ends. Accordingly, there exist several layers of security between the end user and their own tiny corner of cyberspace. One such security measure is the CSR, or Certificate Signing Request. Keep reading to learn more about CSRs and their importance.

Certificate Signing Request: What’s the Deal?

The Certificate Signing Request is a destination authentication measure found in environments which use public-key validation. It may sound technical, and it is on one level, but as far as the user is concerned, CSRs are quite simple - the sites that a user visits must obtain one in order to get an SSL certificate, which is necessary for secure communications between the visitor and the site.

For instance, if a user visits a banking website, that site will have SSL encryption to protect their information. In order to get that certificate, the bank web site must provide credentials to a third-party registration agency. These credentials will show the registrar that the site is attached to a legitimate, bona fide entity, and not some shady person running a spam site out of a basement somewhere. In simplest terms, a CSR is the corporate equivalent of showing I.D. before being issued an SSL.

Certification Signing Request: What Does it Take?

In order to successfully prove that they are who they claim to be, an entity, be it Facebook, a bank, or any other web site which may contain sensitive user information will need to provide some basic information about themselves. This can include some or all of the following:

  • The domain name(s) of the site(s) requesting certification signature.

  • The legal name of the business or other entity attached as it would appear on a tax return or similar document.

  • Location data which includes the organization's town or city, the state or province of the former, and the two-letter code representing the nation in which this address is located, i.e. U.S. for America.

  • Contact information, which is almost always an email address

With this information, the registrar selected by the entity seeking the SSL certificate will verify that the entity in question is legitimate, and if all goes smoothly, issue the relevant certification.

Certificate Signing Request: How it all Fits Together

A simple example of how everything works in the CSR process is this: Facebook wants an SSL certificate to show that it is trustworthy and packs the requisite encryption to properly secure user data. To show that it is actually Facebook, rather than a malicious site attempting to scrape data, the relevant members of the Facebook team will furnish the data discussed in the previous section to a trusted third party like VeriSign.

VeriSign will analyze the provided credentials, and provided that everything is in order, sign the document with a unique digital code, and presto - a newly minted SSL credential is born.

Possessing the above information should go a long way in helping you stay safer online. Those with unaddressed safety concerns should take advantage of the capability inherent in most modern browsers to affirm the validity, or lack thereof, of a site's certification.

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