Stands for "Secure Sockets Layer." SSL is a secure protocol developed for sending information securely over the Internet. Many websites use SSL for secure areas of their sites, such as user account pages and online checkout. Usually, when you are asked to "log in" on a website, the resulting page is secured by SSL.
SSL encrypts the data being transmitted so that a third party cannot "eavesdrop" on the transmission and view the data being transmitted. Only the user's computer and the secure server are able to recognize the data. SSL keeps your name, address, and credit card information between you and merchant to which you are providing it. Without this kind of encryption, online shopping would be far too insecure to be practical. When you visit a Web address starting with "https," the "s" after the "http" indicates the website is secure. These websites often use SSL certificates to verify their authenticity.
While SSL is most commonly seen on the Web (HTTP), it is also used to secure other Internet protocols, such as SMTP for sending e-mail and NNTP for newsgroups. Early implementations of SSL were limited to 40-bit encryption, but now most SSL secured protocols use 128-bit encryption or higher.