Are you trying to renew your SSL Certificate? Here is everything you need to know!
An SSL Certificate is required by a website to ensure secure server connections. In today’s world, an SSL certificate for a website is as important as a seat belt for a driver. All online businesses must take web security seriously. More than 43 percent of cyber-attacks target small businesses because of their ignorance of such basic security considerations. So how does an SSL certificate protect a website and why is it essential to renew it? Before we dig deep into these questions, let’s take a look at what SSL actually means.
What Is An SSL Certificate?
SSL (Secure Socket Layer), is a global security technology that encrypts communication between web browsers and web servers, reducing the threat of sensitive information on a website being intercepted or hacked. To enable this secure connection, an SSL Certificate, also referred to as a digital certificate, is installed on the webserver. The certificate is issued by a trusted Certificate Authority (CA) that confirms the website identity to a web visitor’s browser. That, in turn, ensures that the communications between the browser and the website are based on website-specific data that is valid, accurate and up-to-date.
There are 3 common certificate options. The certificate that requires the lowest (minimum) level of validation is the DV or Domain Validated certificate. This is the most common type of SSL certificate. It is confirmed against the email address listed in the domain’s WHOIS record.
The OV or Organization Validated certificate requires that the CA check that the business making the request has a verifiable physical (street) address. The organization’s name is included in the certificate.
The highest level of security that can be employed is the EV SSL and is available only for businesses, corporations and other entities. The validation and verification process to install an EV SSL certificate is more comprehensive and rigorous, requiring that multiple verifications be provided. Visitors to a website holding an EV certificate are alerted by leading browsers to this higher level of certification by displaying the website’s URL with a green background.
The SSL Certificate authenticates the identity of the website ensuring the visitors, safe surfing through the website. The security technology encrypts the data that is being transmitted and ensures safe connection at both ends. Apart from the primary benefits of authentication and encryption, installing an SSL certificate can give your website additional advantages:
- Improved search engine ranking: According to a study by Brian Dean, the founder of Backlinko.com, HTTPS websites have higher Google ranking. Not surprisingly, because in 2014 Google announced it had changed its algorithm to give better ranking to HTTPS-enabled sites, in part to encourage firms to improve their security.
- Improved customer trust: An SSL certificate, easily enables visitors to identify the legitimacy of a website. Enabling an OV or EV SSL, allows site visitors to view organization details, which guarantees the website is genuine and helps in building customer trust – particularly important for eCommerce websites – and an increased chance for long-term customer relationships. Browsers automatically detect websites that employ SSL and indicate to the web browser that fact by displaying a padlock icon in the address line of the browser.
- Comply with the PCI/DSS Requirements: To enable online payments, the Payment Card Industry(PCI) requires the installment of SSL certificate on your site, which is one of the 12 primary requirements of the PCI/DSS.
Why Is It Necessary To Renew The SSL Certificate?
An SSL Certificate has an expiry date hardcoded in it so that the encryptions are kept up-to-date. Renewing the SSL Certificate every two years will help you maintain the latest SSL versions and ciphers. When an SSL certificate expires, the users get a warning from the web browsers indicating the renewal. The security technology can be renewed 90 days prior to the expiry, which is ample time to get a new certificate issued and installed.
When the SSL certificate expires and no action is taken to renew it, the website loses its padlock and site seal. The visitors to the site will notice no SSL product on the site and this could affect their trust and security towards engaging with the website, which can directly affect the website traffic and ranking.
To learn when the certificate for a website is going to expire use one of the many online SSL checker sites, such as https://www.sslshopper.com.
How Can I renew the SSL Certificate?
Now, since it’s clear why an SSL certificate cannot be allowed to expire, let’s see how can it be renewed.
When an SSL certificate expires, a scary-looking warning message is displayed to the website visitor.
Since the renewal procedure can be time-consuming, authorities allow the certificate to be renewed in a 90-day window from 60 days before to 30 days after the expiration date.
The renewal procedure is conducted with the original provider of the certificate. Usually, it involves three simple steps:
- Log in to your account, select your respective certificate, and purchase a renewal credit.
- Generate the renewal certificate (that is, a replacement certificate)
- Upload it to the server hosting your website.
However, before you generate your renewed certificate, ensure you fulfill the following best practices:
- Conduct a basic check on the server, such as a health check or log monitoring, to identify any known issues.
- Generate a CSR (Certificate Signing Request) to apply for the SSL renewal certificate. A CSR can be generated by logging in to the server’s terminal and applying the following command. (Provided OpenSSL has been provided on the server. A Windows server will require some additional configuration to be able to run this command.) After entering the required information, you will be able to open the CSR in a text editor which can be copied directly to the SSL renewal form.
- Comply with the necessary information demanded or additional verification required by the Certificate Authority.
When your SSL certificate is issued, you will be informed by email. Once you receive your certificate and the private key provided with it:
- Verify the certificate and key before applying it to the server.
- Apply the certificate to the server.
- Conduct a basic vulnerability test related to SSL and apply patches if required.
- Conduct a basic test on the website after the installation.
In case of an OV/EV SSL certificate, ensure the legal company information you submit is identical to the public listing. If these steps aren’t clear, get assistance from your hosting provider.
Although implementing and renewing an SSL certificate might seem a bit complicated and time-consuming, it is becoming more important than ever to have one. Websites that do not use an HTTPS encrypted SSL certificate are essentially advertising that they are unprofessional.
Leading browsers like Chrome and Safari alert the user when an SSL certificate expires, generating a scary-looking warning message similar to this one:
Customers of INFINCE, a full service IT offering by Fingent, don’t need to worry about the SSL certification process. Along with empowering their organization with cloud integration and enhanced business collaboration and productivity tools, INFINCE also completely automates the SSL certificate renewal procedure, eliminating the entire hassle.