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4 Best Practices for Managing & Tracking SSL and TLS Certificates

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4 Best Practices for Managing & Tracking SSL and TLS Certificates 1

Is your SSL certificate’s configuration secure? Are you using the most updated SSL/TLS protocols? Do you even know which ones have been deprecated by the Internet Engineering Task Force? If you have no clue about any of these factors, you are not alone. It is extremely rare (although necessary) for website owners to pick the right SSL and review its underlying technologies periodically. 

In 2021, you cannot install a random SSL; look at the green padlock in the URL bar and feel satisfied with it. Cybersecurity is evolving at lightning-fast speed, and such carelessness can be fatal for any business. What may seem secure now may turn otherwise in just a couple of months because cybercriminals persistently try to find newer ways to steal data. 

It is necessary to take prompt and timely measures to keep your site and user data secure during such challenging times. Therefore, we decided to tell you everything you need to know to efficiently track and manage your SSL/TLS certificates. For this purpose, you need to understand the SSL and TLS protocols, so let’s start right there.

Ø SSL and TLS Protocols

The Secure Socket Layer (SSL) and the Transport Layer Security (TLS) are two separate cryptographic protocols used by digital certificates to facilitate encryption. Although used interchangeably, the SSL and the TLS are two distinct protocols that work quite differently. We currently use the TLS protocol, but this was developed only after its predecessor technology — SSL — failed and was deprecated in 2015. The SSL protocol was developed by Netscape somewhere between 1995 to 1998 but was quite a failure. 

The SSL 1.0 was never released to the public, while the SSL 2.0 was released in 1995, only to be replaced by SSL 3.0 the next year. Finally, SSL 3.0 was deprecated in 2015 after the POODLE attacks and was replaced with TLS, a currently used technology. This cryptographic protocol was a massive improvement over the SSL 3.0, but there was just one problem. It offered interoperability to ensure a superior user experience, which was later misused by cybercriminals who forced TLS connection failure so that the servers revert to the SSL 3.0 version. 

Ø Tips to Manage and Track your SSL/TLS Certificates

As you may have realized, you need to keep your SSL updated, but how do you do that? We know this can be difficult for those who have never managed an SSL before. Therefore, we bring you four best practices to manage, track and fix your SSL issues in the easiest manner possible.

SSL Protocol Review 

As a website owner, you must review your SSL protocol periodically. You can do this by just typing in your URL in a server testing tool like this one here . These tools tell you some of the most technical stuff about the SSL, like info about the protocol, algorithm used to sign, handshake, issuer details, the validity of the SSL, and more. 

So why is this necessary? As we have already discussed, protocols get deprecated when vulnerabilities are found, and the only way to stay safe is by remaining well-informed and taking prompt actions. For example, the TLS 1.0 and the 1.1 versions were deprecated in March 2020. Also, TLS 1.2 has been partly deprecated for certain purposes like bank transactions due to security reasons. Based on your business type, you must remain compliant with the cybersecurity best practices to prevent litigation in security incidents.

Review SSL Settings 

You probably installed a TLS/SSL certificate on your website and forgot entirely about its configurations. That won’t do because your settings need to be at par with the latest technological trends. If a protocol version has issues, you must quickly change your server’s configuration to prevent interoperability with that version.

This is important because most protocol versions are designed to be backward compatible with providing a superior user experience. However, cybercriminals can misuse this flexibility who can force a failure only to launch an attack. 

Review the SSL Certificate Renewal Process

SSL renewal timelines have changed, and it does not matter whether you have a domain validated, or organization validated, extended validated certificate. Unless you renew it every 365 days (or a maximum of 398 days), some browsers are going to show a security warning. So, you need to buy an SSL from a seller who provides a free renewal process. This eliminates the need for you to manually track renewals and ensures optimum security for your website. 

Don’t forget to Configure Windows.

It is important to note that every operating system supports multiple protocol versions, and by default, connects through the lowest version. For example, Windows Vista, Windows Server 2008, and Windows 7 support SSL 2.0, 3.0, and TLS 1.0. However, by default, the operating system will try to connect using SSL 2.0, which is the lowest version that it supports. So, you need to disable those lower versions by going to the registry and changing the settings of the lower protocols to zero. 

Final Takeaway

The biggest blunder most website owners make is to install an SSL and forget about it. As you may have now realized, you need to do a lot more. Just like you upgrade your software applications, even SSL certificates need maintenance and upkeep. Searching for the perfect SSL certificate for your online venture can be like looking for a needle in a haystack.

We will help you breakdown the same with a couple of suggestions based on the nature of your business website. If you plan to expand your business in the future by adding new domains and subdomains, we suggest going for a multi-domain wildcard SSL certificate. Installing this single certificate will save you the hassle of buying and maintaining separate SSL certs for each new domain or subdomain that you add. Further it will encrypt an unlimited number of first-level subdomains under the domains that you choose.

After all, the internet has taught us one thing — no technology is perfect, and everything needs an upgrade. If you are still wondering why SSLs are so important despite their imperfections, then here’s the deal. Besides encryption, a wildcard SSL brings many perks like SEO advantage, PCI DSS and GDPR compliance, increased online reputation, and more. None of this would be possible without periodical management of the SSL and TLS certificates. 

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