What is an SSL certificate? Why is it so crucial to have the certificate? What if the certificate expires? What happens when you don’t renew your SSL Certificate? How long should I take before renewing the certificate? These are some of the questions on that people usually getting confuse. This article seeks to clear the air about all these issues This article seeks to clear the air about all these issues. I will briefly explain what an SSL certificate is, its role in cybersecurity and why you should never allow the certificate to expire. So, without much ado, let us get started.
What is an SSL Certificate?
The Secure Socket Layer (SSL) certificate is one of the most vital security protocols today. Its role in cybersecurity is so significant to the extent that its absence can cause paranoia to all those who interact with your website. We have all seen the trend. Most website visitors have become clever and more cautious. They would never want to jeopardize their security by using sites without the basic yet crucial security protocols, such as the SSL certificate. Today, according to a recent Google Transparency report, most pages that loaded on Google Chrome (89% in January 2021) were all served by the HTTPS protocol. The report tells you that most web visitors now value their security and choose safe websites over risky websites.
It is the SSL certificate that gives websites the HTTPS feature. All communications between the website servers (your end) and the web browsers (clients’ end) will be encrypted. Encryption means that the communication will be scrambled into indecipherable gibberish. It is the intended recipient who will have the powers to access and decrypt the communication.
SSL encryption is so crucial. It protects clients’ data and sensitive information such as debit card information, credit card details, financial records, health details, among other sensitive information. Anything that could jeopardize the well-being and normal functionality of the SSL certificate should, therefore, be dealt with and eliminated as soon as possible.
SSL certificates are acquired from trusted Certificate Authorities and usually have an expiry date. An expired SSL certificate will create a vulnerability that cybercriminals can easily take advantage of and carry out a data breach on your website. The cost of a successful data breach is something you should never wish to incur.
Unlike other digital certificates that expire, the secure sockets layer certificates do not have automatic renewals. As a result, an expired certificate is an almost inevitable security risk that could be costly to your website and your business at large. Let us have a look at some of the dangers of an expired SSL certificate.
What Happens When You Do Not Renew Your SSL Certificate?
Several scenarios come after an SSL certificate has expired. The following are some of the dangers that you will face when you do not renew your SSL certificate on time:
- You Will Incur Losses
When your SSL certificates expire, all those web visitors that attempt to access your website will receive a security warning that cautions them about your site’s expired certificate. The message alone is enough to scare your existing and potential customers from your website. No visitor wants to purchase from an insecure website. Customer loss and consequential reduction of traffic can be stumbling blocks to the general success of your website and your business as a whole.
When your visitors encounter such a message on your website, the next thing they will do is to leave your website and head directly to your competitors’ sites. Do not let a simple thing that can be easily dealt with, such as an expired SSL certificate, be the reason why your customers run away from you.
Most of your customers are likely to stop a transaction after seeing the message that tells them that the SSL certificate has expired. Most customers will also choose to terminate the transactions on seeing such a message. It means that an expired SSL certificate will cause a heavy dwindling in sales that will lead to substantial losses.
- Security Risks
I have already explained the role of the SSL certificate on website security. No website security strategy can be complete without an SSL certificate being incorporated. In the absence of an SSL certificate, hackers and cyber intruders will be on high alert to try and invade the information in transit or the transactions. The absence of an SSL certificate is a golden opportunity most hackers will rejoice at.
An expired certificate is as bad as the absence of an SSL certificate. If cyberintruders notice that your SSL certificate expired and is no longer functioning, they will move with speed to lay bait and traps and take advantage of the situation. A 2018 Hiscox small business cyber risk report shows that most businesses that have fallen victim to a cyber breach have ended up closing their operations. I am sure you are not ready to close down your precious website. But an expired SSL certificate can bring your business down on its knees within a very short period. The choice is yours; you either choose to stay with an expired certificate and suffer the consequences or take proper measures to deal with the situation.
- Damage to Brand’s Credibility and Trust
An expired SSL certificate can cause severe damage to a brand’s trust and reputation. Customers will refrain from making any purchase, and most will panic at the thought of having their sensitive information compromised. According to a research report done and published by the Ponemon Institute, over one-third of website visitors vowed never to transact with a website that had its SSL certificate expired.
- Increased Strain on IT Department and the Customer Support Team
The most average reaction that most customers will do is call the support team if they have issues accessing the website or completing a transaction. They will reach out to the customer support team to sort out their problems and queries. The average cost per support call might be too expensive. Considering that the support calls are too many, it might be costly and uneconomical for you to handle all the queries. Furthermore, too many calls and queries will hinder you from dealing with more pertinent issues.
On the flip side, most of your employees will contact your IT department team if they come across a warning about an expired SSL certificate. This overwhelms and strains the IT department. As a result, they might fail to deal with more vital security concerns, increasing the organization’s susceptibility to cybersecurity threats.
All four issues tell you how crucial it is to renew an expired SSL certificate on time. However, most website owners usually find the whole process of SSL certificate renewals quite hectic, especially when they have multiple domains. Most of them acquire an SSL certificate for each domain, and therefore renewing each certificate becomes a hectic procedure. Today, I bring you good news. If you have multiple domains, the next time you look for an SSL certificate, ensure that you consider purchasing a multi-domain SSL certificate. With a multi-domain SSL certificate, you will make your work easier when working on SSL renewals. Just a single SSL renewal and you are done. Eventually, you realize that it is cost-effective and time-saving.
Preventing HTTPS Expiry
It is now clear to you that an expired SSL certificate is a no-go zone. You are probably wondering how you can ensure that your SSL certificate does not expire. Let us now look at how you can prevent your SSL certificate from expiring:
- Well, any SSL Certificate provider worth their salt must always send you an email to remind you that the SSL certificate will soon expire. It is vital to ensure that the email account is active to not miss out on anything. You must also ensure that the email from the certificate provider does not land in the junk folder. Most providers will send the reminders some months, weeks, or days before the expiry date. The email will also contain the renewal steps that explain how to renew the certificate. Better safe than sorry, you should follow those steps to renew the certificate.
- If you are a large organization operating a large number of SSL certificates, you have to ensure that your IT team has an effective renewal strategy so that nothing slips through the net. Similarly, you can choose to use an SSL management service to handle the renewals.
SSL certificates play a very critical role in website security. Apart from having security benefits, they also have other benefits such as SEO rankings, helping to strengthen your brand, among many other benefits. However, you must always ensure that the certificate keeps running throughout. Not even an expiry date should stop the certificate from running. In this article, I have explained some of the risks associated with an expired SSL certificate and how you can ensure that your certificate does not expire.