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What Will Happen If My SSL Certificate Expires?

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SSL Certificate Expiration

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CatherineSeptember 15 2023

With the ever-increasing influx of data added to online platforms, the protection of data and the creation of a secure environment have become concerns for both individuals and business entities. Websites, e-commerce platforms, and online services must ensure the confidentiality and integrity of the information they handle. One essential element in maintaining this security is the SSL certificate, which encrypts data transmissions between web servers and clients. However, what happens when your SSL certificate expires? In this article, let's explore the implications of an expired SSL certificate and outline the consequences it may entail.

Understanding SSL Certificates

 

Based on SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) protocol, SSL certificates establish secure connections between a web server and a user's web browser or application. They encrypt data in transit, protecting it from interception by malicious actors. SSL certificates are issued by Certificate Authorities and contain information about the certificate holder, the certificate's validity period, and the public key used for encryption.

Why Do SSL Certificates Expire?

 

We all know that SSL certificates have two main functions: data encryption and identity verification, with the latter being the primary reason for their expiration.

CA SSL certificates, including basic DV SSL certificates, require certain information submitted during the application process to verify the applicant's identity. Nevertheless, as company identity information and domain ownership can change over time, CAs cannot guarantee perpetual accuracy. Therefore, CAs usually mandate certificate holders to periodically update and verify their certificate information, with any changes necessitating revalidation and reissuance.

On the other hand, setting a lengthy validity period for SSL certificates or not having an expiration date poses significant security risks. Take, for example, private certificates. According to the requirements of CA certificates, private certificates do not expire or require renewal after a set period. While this may seem convenient, it is one of the primary drawbacks of this option because they cannot adhere to security updates in response to discovered vulnerabilities and cannot meet the certificate agility needed for today's modern enterprises. This gives hackers ample time to exploit vulnerable encryption algorithms, with potentially dire consequences.

Due to the reasons mentioned above, the validity period of SSL certificates continues to shorten. Over the years, the maximum validity period for certificates has been shortened from three years to two years, and now to one year (technically 13 months).

What Happens If an SSL Certificate Expires?

 

1. Security Risks: The most immediate concern when an SSL certificate expires is the increased vulnerability to cyber threats. Without a valid certificate, data transmissions between the server and the client are no longer encrypted. This opens the door for malicious actors to intercept and eavesdrop on sensitive information, such as login credentials, personal data, and even financial transactions. Cybercriminals can use this opportunity to launch man-in-the-middle attacks, potentially causing severe harm to your users and your reputation.

2. Browser Warnings: Modern web browsers have become increasingly vigilant in protecting users from unsecured connections. Once a website SSL certificate expires, browsers will display warnings such as "Your connection is not private." This can hinder users from proceeding, resulting in decreased trust, visitor retention, and dropped conversion rates. In some cases, browsers may even completely block access to the website.

3. Loss of SEO Ranking: Search engines, notably Google, consider SSL certificates as a ranking factor. Websites with valid SSL certificates tend to rank higher in search engine results pages (SERPs). When your SSL certificate expires, your website's search engine ranking will be adversely affected, potentially reducing your online visibility and organic traffic.

Expired Certificates Causing Service Outage: Examples

 

The popular augmented reality mobile game "Pokémon Go" briefly went offline on January 22nd. The login issues in this Pokémon Go incident were actually caused by an overlooked SSL certificate, rather than server overload or poor patch implementation. Although the loss was minimal, Niantic's extensive player base was unable to access the game for approximately half an hour. However, this error is likely to become yet another chapter in a game that has dealt with its share of bugs, server issues and missing or delayed features.

On January 8, 2018, when someone tried to access https://www.conservatives.com, they would receive the following warning: "Your connection is not private. Attackers might be trying to steal your information from www.conservatives.com (for example, passwords, messages or credit cards)." Eventually, the Conservative Party noticed this and temporarily shut down their website for several hours to avoid any potential disaster. After some time, the website came back online with a new certificate, but the damage had already been done.

In April this year, Musk posted two messages on Twitter, saying "Sorry, slight glitch with @SpaceX Starlink. Coming back online now." and "Caused by expired ground station cert. we  re scrubbing the system for other single-point vulnerabilities." It is reported that the ground station certificate refers to the security certificate used to verify the communication between the ground station and the satellite. If the certificate expires, the ground station will not be able to establish a connection with the satellite, resulting in an interruption of Starlink service.

How to Avoid Certificate Expiration?

 

SSL Certificate expiration is a major issue that can lead to security breaches, downtime, and other adverse effects. This is why you need a tool that can remind you about upcoming SSL certificate expirations, so you can renew the certificate in time.
 
When you purchase an SSL certificate from NicSRS, we provide you with a top-notch SSL certificate service. Not only will the system automatically remind you one month before expiration, but you will also get notifications through emails and other means. This effectively helps prevent issues such as certificate expiration due to negligence.

Additionally, you could choose to purchase our multi-year plans, which provides instant savings as well as long-term solutions to certificate renewals. 

Furthermore, for enterprises, it is essential to provide regular cybersecurity training to enhance awareness of cybersecurity measures and improve website security.

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