self-signed SSL certificates - SSLMagic

How Secure Are Self-Signed SSL Certificates?

You are normally asked to do most of the things yourself. For example, you should cook yourself, wash your clothes, and do assignments yourself. Well, it may be true for most other things but not for an SSL certificate. Never self-sign the SSL certificate. Self-signed SSL certificates pose several risks that we will discuss later. Let’s discuss the basics of it first.

What Is a Self-Signed SSL Certificate?

An DV SSL certificate requires the signature and approval of the certificate authority (CA). However, in the case of self-signed SSL certificates, one needs no such approvals. It includes all of the SSL/TLS certificates, code signing certificates, and S/MIME certificates. These types of certificates fall into different category compared to CA-signed certificates. They are different as any person or an organization can self-sign it. This makes the self-signed SSL certificates less secure for public websites and apps. They are also known as private SSL certificates.

Why Shouldn’t I Self-Sign My SSL Certificate?

To address this query, one needs to get the basic knowledge of SSL certificates first. There are two parts to SSL certificates. The first is the protocol for encryption called SSL. Their name has changed to TLS now.

The other part of SSL/TLS is verification. In our case, this part is more important. At the point when you apply for a certificate, the Certificate Authority will assess your site. The security requirements depend on the level of certificate you are looking for. It may require only the domain name to full details of the business and website. The reason behind in-depth verification is that the CA will sign a certificate, which forms your Identity. This certificate is proof that your site and business are secure.

It is important to keep in mind that the browsers don’t trust you as easily as you might think or want. Because browsers’ main responsibility is to search the webs while keeping their clients secure. However, good thing is that the browsers trust a small number of Certificate Authorities. This is because these authorities follow some of the given rules, provides them certain data, and do work closely with the browsers. There’s even a platform, called the CA/B platform, where these authorities and browsers meet to check the requirements and form new rules that all CAs should follow. By self-signing, you are not a part of the Certificate Authorities/B platform. When the authorities approve your certificate, they already have performed the needed assessment. This approval is necessary for the customers’ trust. Therefore, never self-sign an SSL certificate and always prefer the CA approved certificate. Otherwise, you will leave behind your competitors that have CA approved SSL certificates. In wish of saving a few dollars, you may lose 10 times more amount as a result of lower turn out on your site.

Advantages and Disadvantages of a Self-Signed SSL Certificate

Advantages of a Self-Signed SSL Certificate

  • It is cheaper
  • This type of certificate also uses the same method to encrypt data. Therefore, no big difference between the paid and this type of certificate in this regard.
  • Self-signed SSL certificates are useful for Internal sites and testing purposes.

Disadvantages of Self-Signed SSL Certificate

  • Browsers do not trust it.
  • Visitors on your site have to go through a warning page about risk.
  • Visitors feel unsafe on websites containing warning messages, which will directly decrease traffic on your website.
  • Self-signed SSL certificates are not useful for a site that offers paid association or handles tax information and other records of clients.
  • The users never like to share personal or sensitive data on unsecured websites. The personal data includes the credit card number, bank details, phone number, and date of birth, etc.
  • The self-signed SSL certificates sometimes pose a threat of acting as the middle point of security attacks. Therefore, if the users ignore the security warning, they can lose the security of the data and can face the cyber-attacks as a result.

Why Are Self-Signed SSL Certificates Are Not Secure?

In any public key infrastructure (PKI), all the stakeholders should trust the certificate authority. In our case, the stakeholders include the browsers and the server. These stakeholders trust those issuing authorities that the Certificate Authorities/B platform’s guidelines.

On the other hand, the CA/B will not check or recognize the self-signed SSL certificates. Thus, it is not free of loopholes and any hacker can take benefit from it. For instance, SSL certificates need to be issued again every 12 months. This means anyone can check the validity dates of these certificates. However, in a self-signed certificate, the owner can generate and sign a new certificate at any time. Therefore, you can’t trust the validity date given on this type of SSL certificate. Another example of the loophole is revocation uncertainty. In case of misuse of the certificate, the CA blocks the use of such a certificate in no time. However, in a self-signed SSL certificate, no one is going to check the misuse and thus the user can’t trust the security of such sites.

In the case of a self-signed SSL certificate, the holder of it can endorse it by himself. The browsers, however, accepts CA validated certificates only. They will not accept any other certificate and the security of such certificate is poor.

Final Words

In recent years we have evolved digitally. When it comes to online business, work, or social media, privacy is very important. Research shows that the majority of online buyers trust online shops to hide their personal details. So it is the company’s responsibility to protect the privacy of its customers effectively. By doing so, companies can increase the sales of their business. This is where an SSL certificate plays its role. You have two options to get the SSL certificate. Either self-sign the certificate or purchase from a trusted source. As we described earlier in the article, self-signed SSL certificates are not secure. Most of the browsers also don’t accept them. Therefore, purchasing from a well-known certificate authority is the only viable option.

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