Ever seen the error, “There is a problem with this website’s security certificate” and wondered what it meant? I’ll explain what a security certificate is and how it works – so you can get back to your website without any problems.
Internet security is quite complex. Therefore, this article only provides a simple overview of the topic for non-technical readers and tips on what to do if there is a security bug.
Why security certificates are important
Whenever you access a website that requires you to sign in and manage an account, it is important that your account information remains between you and your service provider to keep your money, identity, and personal information safe. Your online service provider can be your bank, an online store or e-commerce website, PayPal, your email address, or your personal blog.
HTTPS (HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure) indicates that the website is protected by Secure Socket Layer / Transport Layer Security. Data sent between you and the website is encrypted so the information is private and the website is identified for who it claims to be. Just as you verify your identity (using your username and password and other information they might be asked for, such as two-factor authentication, what is two-factor authentication and why should you use it? What is Two-Factor Authentication, and Why You Should Use It Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) is a security method that requires two different types of proof of identity: It is widely used in everyday life: For example, paying with a credit card not only requires the card, the website must also. The website proves that it is operated by its real owners by showing your internet browser a security certificate, which then shows you with the lock symbol that the website is legitimate.
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If you don’t see these things when you are on a secure website, or if you see a warning, it means the website may be a fake. On such a site, you may be sending your data to the wrong people, thereby falling victim to a man-in-the-middle attack. What is a man-in-the-middle attack? Security jargon explained what is a man-in-the-middle attack? Security Jargon Explained If you’ve heard of man-in-the-middle attacks but aren’t entirely sure what it means, this is the article for you. Continue reading . You can click the lock icon for more information if it isn’t green or has a yellow warning icon.
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The safety icons are different: Check the Google explanations for the explanations used in Chrome. Internet Explorer users should refer to the Microsoft key. The Safari browser security buttons appear at the end of the URL as explained by Apple.
Website owners, browsers, and certification authorities
Ecommerce website owners pay a third party called a Certificate Authority (CA) to verify who the company is and that their transactions are authentic.
Web browsers such as Google Chrome, Firefox and Internet Explorer keep lists of certification authorities that they deem to be trustworthy. When you access a secure website, the website presents your security certificate to your browser. If the certificate is up to date and from a trusted certification authority, you can sign in and complete your transactions without warning.
When you launch a secure website, there are several CAs to choose from. These include Norton, GoDaddy, Microsoft, and numerous others. Their job is to verify that you own the site they are issuing a certificate for (also known as domain verification). You can do this by sending an email to the email address associated with the website’s domain with instructions on how to update your website’s domain name server (DNS) settings or files on your web server. The idea is that only the person who received this email has and can do the exact instructions on how to update the website.
There are other, more stringent types of certificates that a CA offers (which cost more) to verify who you and your company are, such as Extended Validation, which can cost hundreds of dollars (large companies sometimes pay thousands). Extended Validation includes verification of information such as the website owner’s legal identity, company name, physical address, registration and jurisdiction of incorporation. This website security is an important level of trust in running a business. What is a website security certificate and why should you care? What is a website security certificate and why should you care? Continue reading .
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When you visit a website that has undergone Extended Validation, modern browsers display the company name in green in the URL bar to let you know that you are dealing with the correct company.
Free certification bodies
There are free certification bodies out there, but because the service is free, they don’t have the same levels of security and branding as the big names. In addition, they often lack the ubiquity of browser recognition. So when you get a free security certificate, you might hear from your website readers that when they visit your website, their browser warns that your website’s certification authority is not trusted. You get a free domain verification from StartSSL (no identity verification). This will make your site trusted by Mozilla browsers, Safari, and Internet Explorer. However, you don’t get the green bar for the Extended Validation packages, which cost around $ 200.
CACert is a free, community-run certification body. Volunteer CACert Assurers meet with the website owners to personally review your identification documents. Unfortunately, CAcerts certificates are not trustworthy in large browsers and are only supplied with some open source operating systems.
However, using CACert and StartSSL provides encryption of your site. So if you have simple user interaction on your site (e.g. a forum or a wiki), these free services may be just what you need.
What to do if you see a certificate warning
Whenever you get this browser warning, it is important to investigate the details. You can find out why the certificate was rejected and decide for yourself whether to continue and use the site anyway. If the certificate has expired, the website owner may have forgotten to renew the certificate in time. If you are seeing this error frequently, it is a good idea to check the date on your computer clock and make sure it is accurate.
However, if the security certificate has been revoked, it means that the site is using the certificate fraudulently and you should not trust it. You could also get a warning that the certification authority is not trusted. If you think you understand and trust StartSSL’s CACert model of Peer-to-Peer Verification or Domain Verification, you can instruct your browser to trust these CAs. There are other types of warnings and errors. So keep your eyes open and read up on the details.
If you get a certificate warning from a trusted site, you can also check the website’s Twitter feed. When this happens, updates to the website, downtime, security, and other issues are often provided.
If they don’t have updates, and if you can, it might be helpful to contact the website owner and ask what’s going on. You may save a lot of grief for the website owner and other users if they don’t already know about the certificate warning.
In short, be vigilant (because phishing scam is used. New phishing scam uses scary-accurate Google login page. New phishing scam uses: scately-accurate Google login page. Right, apparently wrong. A sophisticated phishing setup teaches the world another online safety lesson. For more information, be sure to be curious too. Go ahead and find out why you are seeing security warnings.
Have you ever encountered a security certificate warning? Are you taking the time to find out why you are watching it? What are you most concerned about and do you have any tips on what to do about it?
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