SSH vs SSL: What’s the difference?

Even if you are not very well versed in IT topics, you probably heard such definitions as SSH and SSL. These definitions are public-key tunneling protocols and their aim to create a secure, confidential exchange of data and network connectivity, particularly on the internet.

Both protocols’ encryption technologies are very reliable, and it is extremely difficult or impossible for hackers to crack them.

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The main difference between them is that it is located around the tunnel. SSL traditionally uses x.509 certificates to declare server and client public and public keys; SSH has its own format. 

In addition, SSH comes with a set of protocols for what goes inside the tunnel. However, when such things are used in SSL, they are not considered part of SSL. For example, when using password-based HTTP authentication in an SSL tunnel, we say it is part of “HTTPS” but it does work the way it does with SSH.

However, this is not the only thing that distinguishes the SSH vs SSL pair. There are more global differences in their use. Which ones? Let’s take a look.

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What is SSL?

Secure Socket Layer or SSL is a technology designed to make access to sites more reliable and secure. The encryption certificate allows you to reliably protect the traffic transmitted between the user’s browser and the web resource (server) that the browser accesses, all this happens due to the HTTPS protocol. This is an obligatory measure because of the rapid development of the Internet has led to a huge number of sites and resources that require the user to enter personal data:

What is SSL
  • Passwords
  • Credit card
  • Correspondence

These data can be hacked, the high-profile cases of theft of personal information and how much more, SSL certificate encryption is designed to minimize. The development of SSL technology was made by Netscape communications, which later introduced transport layer security, or simply TLS, a protocol based on the SSL 3.0 specification. Both secure socket layer and transport layer security are designed to provide data transfer between two nodes over the internet.

SSL and TLS do not have fundamental differences in their work. They can even be used on the same server simultaneously. This is done solely to ensure new devices and browsers and outdated ones where transport layer security is not supported.

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SSL functions

Thanks to SSL, all our transmitted data remains protected, and no one can get it. This is possible by using two important functions: data encryption and authentication.

  • Data encryption

Every day, tons of user data, including sensitive information, pass through the internet. And to protect all this data, you need SSL encryption. This encryption is provided by using special algorithms that are difficult to crack.

  • Identification

If we use a fake server or malware, then all encryption is absolutely useless. Therefore, authentication is necessary for reliable protection. Thus, the first thing you need to do before establishing an encrypted SSL connection is to authenticate.

That is, after verifying the identity, an SSL certificate based on cryptography and using a public key will be issued. You can also verify authenticity with a third-party Certificate Authority (CA).

How it works?

As you know, when encrypting with a public key, or asymmetric encryption, there is both a public and a private key. They are a pair of keys that are related to each other and have some differences yet.

How SSL works

The open key is public, while the private key is located on the web server and is hidden from prying eyes. The first key encrypts the received data, and the second key decrypts it. It is the private key that is part of the SSL certificate and is the cornerstone of the Public Key Infrastructure (PKI).

An SSL certificate is an assembly of files that need to be installed on the server. It works as a personality witness. A special certificate authority will verify your identity and then give you an SSL certificate in case of successful verification.

The same principle applies to large organizations. The center checks the legality of the organization’s work according to the ca/browser forum requirements. Only then you are received an SSL certificate.

After the client successfully connects to the chosen network via his provider, he can get access to the stored data within the internet.

What is SSH?

SSH or Secure Shell is a network based on cryptographic protocol. It provides remote access to the operation, management and coordination of the system. 

SSH creates the most secure channel for online communication for the client and the server. So, it allows transferring lots of media files, including video or photo, run programs, etc. Such a protocol should be installed on the remote system. Also, for successful operation, SSH protocol should be running on the specific computer that a client has chosen for usage. 

Key features available when using the SSH protocol:

  • Transfer any data over a secure SSH connection, including data compression for subsequent encryption.
  • X11 Forwarding: a mechanism that allows you to run UNIX/Linux server programs as a graphical shell, as in Windows (use the X Window System).
  • Port forwarding: transfer of encrypted traffic between ports of different machines.

SSH functions

In the question of functions, SSL vs SSH perform almost the same functions. However, they perform them in different places. SSH also basically uses encryption and authentication.

  • Encryption

Unfortunately, many modern methods of encryption cannot give their client a good level of security. But SSH protocol provides the most secure and private work using for that client-server model for data encryption.

  • Authentication

Authentication is what is needed for secure login. It is mandatory to minimize the risk of hacking or information leakage.

SSH functions

How it works?

The principle of SSH operation is similar to the SSL model. SSH protocol uses cryptography for encryption. In simple words, all protection work is built on the public key usage. It implements  a specially created pair of keys that work at once: open and closed. The first and the second ones are called SSH keys. They are interchangeable.

An open key or public is published on the server, while a closed or private is hidden from prying eyes. The client can get access only after a special request. Then, if the answer is positive, a client will get open access to the data.

Key differences between SSH vs SSL

  • SSH implements port 22 while SSL uses port 443.
  • As usual, SSH can use SSL as a part of its protocol for providing more security.
  • SSL uses such systems as HTTP, SMTP, FTP.
  • SSH uses crypto security features.
  • SSL can provide the most secure working space for an organization within the internet.
  • SSL is a Secure Socket Layer, while SSH is a Secure Shell.
  • SSH is easier to implement that SSL protocol because of its keys pair.
  • SSH asks to enter some personal data as username and password.

The most obvious difference between SSH vs HTTPS (SSL) is that the former is used as a technical tool for protection, while SSL is a mechanism for protecting sites from outsiders.

In addition, SSH can use SSL as part of its protocol for security.

If you want to know more methods and ways of data protection, you can read our checklist of network security. 


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