SSL certificates are pretty much non-negotiable for websites today! A whole range of SSL products is available in the market today to encrypt communications, strengthen SSL security and improve search rankings. Simply buying any SSL certificate, without considering its features, pros and cons could be counterproductive and highly detrimental.
Given the importance of SSL, you must make an informed decision on whether the SSL certificate is right for your organization’s context and specialized needs. Read on to know more.
SSL Certificates: Key Features
SSL Certificates are entry-level SSL certificates issued by Certificate Authorities (CAs) that provide only the basic/ minimum level of validation and low levels of assurance. Now let us have a closer look at the SSL Certificate Features of Certs.
SSL offers only Domain Validation (DV) – which is the lowest level of assurance offered for SSL certificates by CAs. The CA only verifies if the domain is actually owned by the entity requesting for the certificate and requires the website administrator to approve the request (to ensure that the domain owner applied for the Certificate). The verification process is often automated and takes as less as 5-10 minutes or a maximum of a few hours to complete.
To complete the validation process, two options are available to the webmaster/ administrator.
- Email-Based Verification
In this method, the CA sends the verification link through an email to an official email id (such as [email protected] or [email protected]) that is listed on the WHOIS registration. Typically, a normal email is not used. The assumption here is that only an authorized person would have access to the official email id and hence, these emails. When the admin/ webmaster clicks on the verification link, the authentication is complete, and the approval is complete within a few minutes.
- File-Based Authentication
In this alternative approach to domain validation, the CA sends a file that must be uploaded to a specific folder in the server directory. Once the CA’s instructions are followed and the file is uploaded, the verification process is complete, and the CA approves the SSL Certificate.
- Site Seals and Visible Cues of Protection
Given the importance of SSL Certificates in improving customer trust and privacy in using the website and divulging personal information, visible signs of protection such as dynamic trust seals, padlocks, and so on go a long way. While EV (Extended Validation) and OV (Organizational Validation) SSL provide one or more of these visible signs of trust and protection, Standard SSL Certificates do not or provide very basic cues.
The HTTPS and grey padlock appears in the address bar when a website uses a standard Cert. Upon clicking the padlock, only domain ownership details are available. Since DV Certs do not verify if the entity is legitimate, such information is not available in the certificate, unlike EV and OV certs. So, the user cannot be sure if they are interacting with a legitimate entity or a phishing site created by an attacker. Even when site seals are provided by some CAs for this certificate type, they are only static.
Mostly, standard SSL from reputed CAs use similar technological configurations as other advanced Certs:
- Latest SHA-2 algorithm
- Industry-standard 256-bit encryption
- 2048-bit RSA signature key
Standard SSL certificates are typically compatible with all modern devices and browsers.
Unlike EV and OV SSL, DV SSL certs come with a lower warranty. This liability covered by the warranty is usually worth only a few thousand dollars. Since DV Certs are recommended only for entities with lower risks, the warranties are lower. So, organizations, which have higher risks associated with data breaches, must opt for premium certificates.
These SSL Certificates are the cheapest in the market owing to their simpler verification process, low level of assurance, fewer security features, and lower warranties.
Should You opt for Basic SSL?
Only if you need to secure a static website, blogs, personal websites, or test domain, that too sites/ applications with a single domain. Else, opt for premium SSL Certs.
If your website collects any sensitive information (PII, financial information, etc.) or is a dynamic website with multiple domains and sub-domains (e-commerce sites, websites of larger organizations, etc.), you must NOT choose basic SSL.
The Way Forward
Considering the rapidly growing costs of data breaches, choosing the right SSL certificate to meet your unique circumstances and needs is critical. Always opt for advanced, more secure SSL Certificates for trusted service providers like Indusface, instead of basic SSL Certificates.