In today’s digital age, many entities and organisations have a website because it’s the easiest way to present themselves. Before they can be used extensively, however, websites need a digital certificate because it validates the authenticity of the site’s digital information and guarantees secure connections.
When you type in a URL, the protocol that translates the site’s name into an IP address (the URL itself) and the domain name (the part before the .com, .org etc.), a digital certificate is needed to ensure that the information can be trusted. However, website operators are concerned about the longevity of these digital certificates because they don’t last forever. Beyond that, their expiry dates constantly change over time. For this reason, we’ll discuss the details in this article.
How Digital Certificates Work
Websites use digital certificates to authenticate themselves, similar to how you can use a passport to verify your identity when travelling. In this case, the website acts as a traveller, and the digital certificate acts as its passport.
Essentially, a digital certificate is a code issued by a Certification Authority (CA). These CAs are trusted third parties that control and validate the digital certificates they issue. The most important thing to remember when it comes to digital certificates is that they are only valid if a trusted CA gives them. Otherwise, they can be forged.
There are two well-known types of digital certificates. These are:
SSL and TSL Certificates
The Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate is the most common type of digital certificate. It verifies the identity of websites, guaranteeing the protection of private information over HTTPS (Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure), the encrypted version of the HTTP protocol.
On the other hand, the Transport Layer Security (TLS) certificate is an enhancement of the SSL certificate. It can be used to create encrypted websites protected by the SSL protocol and for encrypted email communication. Although the name of this certificate implies that it is only valid for secure website communication, the fact is that it can be used for other types of communication as well.
Code Signing Certificates
Code signing certificates are used to sign software with a digital signature. This type of certificate makes it possible for users to detect forged or manipulated software.
The web browsers from Microsoft and Apple come with built-in security that warns users when a program’s signature is invalid. The code signing certificates are used to perform this function.
Do Digital Certificates Expire?
The lifetime of a digital certificate is determined by the CA that issues them. Several factors influence the duration of a digital certificate’s validity. The most used factor is the cost of the certificate.
The CA determines the cost of each digital certificate, and it doesn’t vary according to the certificate’s validity. The cost of a digital certificate is usually calculated based on the type of certificate the CA is issuing, the kind of company applying for a certificate and the associated legal costs.
To know if your digital certificate is expiring, it’s worth noting that all certificates issued by trusted public CAs will expire 397 days from their issuance date. This means that you have more than a year to renew yours.
Fixing an Expired Certificate
CAs have a certificate revocation list (CRL), where all entities with expired certificates are listed. CAs keep track of them with this list, and renewing them is pretty easy because you only need to contact them. However, not all CAs have the same processes for renewing certificates, so be sure to follow their instructions.
Digital certificates are needed to verify the identity of sites and software and to ensure communication over encrypted channels. It’s important to know that all digital certificates issued by CAs have an expiry date, so you always have to renew them. All that matters is getting a reputable CA to ensure your website is well-taken care of.
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