Introduction to public key cryptoraphy at netscape.com
The following brief and humorous overview of digital signatures and certificates can be used as a quick reference in addition to the above material:
"What is a digital signature?" by David Youd.
SSL protocol includes "SSL handshake" -- a subprotocol for the two computers to agree on the common encryption algorithm. This part of the protocol also requires authentication of the server by the client and, optionally, of the client by the server. Authentication is done by means of certificates.
Please see Introduction to SSL at netscape.com for a detailed description of SSL. You don't need to remember the names and know the details of particular ciphers and message digest functions used in SSL protocol, such as RC2, RC4, MD5, etc. You need to know the steps of SSL protocols, in particular of sub-protocols for server and client authentication, and the purpose of each step.
Note that the restrictions on export of strong encryption products (mentioned in the article) are no longer valid. Click here for details on the new export policy. You don't need to know the details of the policy.