The Importance of Monitoring SSL Certificates

Secure Sockets Layer, or SSL, is a global security standard technology that is being adopted by a number of different organizations across the globe. Essentially, SSLs are small data files containing a cryptographic key. This key carries important information about the organization using it. Around 600,000 websites have installed SSL certificates for security.  These certificates are then activated on the company’s website which ensures that a secure connection is always set up between the web browser and the web server. The fact that it activates HTTP protocol for each of the connections ensures that all online credit card transactions and data transfers are carried out on a safe platform.  Over 90 percent of the time, Chrome users prefer secure websites with SSL certificates.


What are SSL Certificates Used For?

  • SSL certificates maintain the security of data between servers.
  • Increase the Google rankings of your web pages.
  • The enhanced security can lead to increased customer satisfaction and customer trust.
  • The conversion rates of ecommerce sites are significantly improved with the help of SSL certificates.


How Does SSL Work?

SSL certificates work with two types of keys, private and public. Each of these is a set of randomly generated numbers.  When X sends Y a message, the message will be encrypted in Y’s public domain, but Y would only be able to decode it with their private key.


SSL Properties

SSL certificates contribute towards a website’s safety and ensure all data and financial transactions are securely conducted. These validations are done by following a certain checklist. Some of these checks include:

Authority.  This property checks the authenticity of all websites. It validates if the root certificate is trusted or not, failing which the transaction does not go through.

Common Name. Whenever a user visits a particular website address, the common name property validates the address certificate with the address it is assigned to. In case of a mismatch, this is flagged and the transaction is terminated.

Date.  This particular feature checks for the expiration date on the certificates and ensures that they are valid and active.

Revocation.  The revocation property looks up the details of the SSL certificate and ensures that the chain of trust is not working with a revoked certificate.

Usage.  This monitors certificate usage to verify that intermediate certificates are not misused.


In order to go through these checks, SSL certificates contain a number of different attributes. Let discuss some of the SSL certificate attributes:

  • Version: The version describes the encoding of the certificate. The x509 version is 3, owing to the certificate extensions.
  • Serial number: Each SSL certificate is identified by a unique serial number.
  • Signature algorithm: Every SSL certificate is signed and protected by a cryptographic algorithm. This is referred to as the signature algorithm.
  • Public key: The certificate is also issued with a unique public key that maintains data security.
  • Subject key identifier: This helps the certificate to be recognized as containing that particular public key.


Challenges in Certificates on CDNs and Web Forms

A Content Delivery Network (CDN) is a network of servers that is placed in different locations across the globe. The aim is to deliver content on the internet in a faster and smoother way. CDNs essentially act as the backbone for high speed internet content delivery and performance. While CDNs have taken over the world of internet, they face major challenges in integration with SSL certificates.

For sensitive content and financial transactions, having a CDN is not sufficient. In addition to that, SSL certificates are necessary to ensure that the data flowing through the CDN moves fast, but is still encrypted for security purposes. The idea is that the CDN is compatible with SSL certificates. While slow websites do not go down well with the users, in order to improve website traffic, security is also an important factor.

The situation is the same for web forms. If the form is expected to carry confidential or sensitive information, the users might not be able to access the web forms owing to the standard browser security protocols. For hosting web forms in a private domain, an SSL certificate is a mandate. A web form has the capacity to collect, host, and transmit an enormous amount of information, which can be in the form of images and documents, therefore, using SSL certificates that are compatible with the website is of the utmost importance here.


Why External Synthetic Monitoring is the Right Solution for SSL Certificate Monitoring

SSL certificates have a particular validity and it ceases to remain active after its expiration date. Since the certificates are not recognized anymore after this point, it needs to be renewed in order to keep the safety features updated. And this finite lifespan varies from one to another.

Certificates expire any time between one year and three years following company policies. Keeping track of these dates and validitations becomes crucial and difficult. Certificate renewals are an important component of the certificate life cycle management.

And what happens when an SSL certificate expires? When the user’s web browser reaches the particular website, the SSL certificate validity is verified. If the certificate is not found to be active, it issues a warning to the user stating that the site might not be secure, or the connection is not private. This could result in a loss in site traffic. In fact, 91 percent of all internet users have come across a similar security warning; and 50 percent of them abandon the site if they receive this warning. This is a death warning for the site since every user is wary of malware attacks, especially when the browser declares it potentially unsafe.

This is where an SSL certificate monitoring solution proves to be useful for certificate monitoring. This is a one-stop solution with a dashboard reporting that displays all the details with regards to SSL certificates.


Why SSL Certificate Monitoring is Helpful

  1. This solution provides regular certificate expiry reminders by following the certificate monitoring process.
  2. The monitoring solution helps validate the certificate on the website where it is installed; parameters like Certificate Authority changes are continuously monitored.
  3. Common name verification is also another aspect of this solution, with verification of SSL certificate address along with the URL.
  4. The solution keeps tabs on the immediate chain of trust with automated reporting capabilities.
  5. Revoked certificates are monitored by this synthetic monitoring solution.


Conclusion: The Importance of SSL Certificate Monitoring

Between June 2017 and 2018, the total number of SSL certificates increased by a record 13.2 million certificates. This indicates the increasing importance of security for websites. Thus, purchasing a relevant and verified SSL certificate is the need of the hour. The three kinds of SSL certificates (Extended Validation, Domain Validation, and Organization Validation) could help boost website traffic, performance, and conversions. Start monitoring your SSL certificates today and set up alerts when the expiration dates approach.

Try the entire Dotcom-Monitor platform for free.


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