SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) and TLS (Transport Layer Security) are protocols for secure access to remote computers over insecure communication channels.

The SSL/TLS protocols run above TCP/IP and below higher-level protocols such as HTTP or IMAP. It uses TCP/IP on behalf of the higher-level protocols, and in the process allows an SSL-enabled server to authenticate itself to an SSL-enabled client, allows the client to authenticate itself to the server, and allows both machines to establish an encrypted connection.

These capabilities address fundamental concerns about communication over the Internet and other TCP/IP networks:

SSL server authentication allows a user to confirm a server's identity. SSL-enabled client software can use standard techniques of public-key cryptography to check that a server's certificate and public ID are valid and have been issued by a certificate authority (CA) listed in the client's list of trusted CAs. This confirmation might be important if the user, for example, is sending a credit card number over the network and wants to check the receiving server's identity.
SSL client authentication allows a server to confirm a user's identity. Using the same techniques as those used for server authentication, SSL-enabled server software can check that a client's certificate and public ID are valid and have been issued by a certificate authority (CA) listed in the server's list of trusted CAs. This confirmation might be important if the server, for example, is a bank sending confidential financial information to a customer and wants to check the recipient's identity.
An encrypted SSL connection requires all information sent between a client and a server to be encrypted by the sending software and decrypted by the receiving software, thus providing a high degree of confidentiality. Confidentiality is important for both parties to any private transaction. In addition, all data sent over an encrypted SSL connection is protected with a mechanism for detecting tampering--that is, for automatically determining whether the data has been altered in transit.
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