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Self-Signed SSL/TLS Certificate: What Is It & Why It’s Risky to Use

Self-Signed SSL Certificate Is Much Risky & Costlier Compared to Trusted Certificate Authorities

Everyone likes to save money by reducing costs. Those smart companies and businesses that spend a huge amount of money on their infrastructure and other things are no different. Though security is not something, they’d think about reducing the cost, when it comes to trimming down overall expenses. However, in last but some IT security professionals do believe that costs of security can be lowered down by eliminating third-party SSL/TLS Certificate issued by Certificate Authorities.

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No doubt, spending money on SSL/TLS certificate for external-facing websites like organization website, or portals that deal with sensitive information like a credit card is necessary, but many IT professionals have a belief that internal websites accessed by employees, can have an alternative of a self-signed SSL/TLS certificate without losing on security and protection.

However, this belief system can backfire – badly, mainly because the total cost of an SSL/TLS certificate is beyond its price. From a security point of view – technical as well as business, the do it yourself approach towards an SSL/TLS certificate may put your organization at risk in many different ways.

Risk of Using Self-Signed SSL/TLS Certificate Used on Publicly Facing Sites

From technical point organizations that use a Self-signed SSL certificate tell browsers such as Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox that “I verify that I am myself. Trust me.” and as per the standards of these popular web browsers, it’s meaningless.

If you used this, the user who tries accessing your website would also face an error message saying the signing entity is not trustworthy. It’s unknown, resulting in damage to brand reputation, loss of customer trust, the decline of conversions, and website visitors.

Risks Involved With Self-Signed SSL/TLS Certificate Used on Internal Sites

Corporate email servers, wikis for individual project management, software development sandboxes, and human resource (HR) portals are some of the internal sites and servers examples where SSL/TLS certificate is used often.

Nevertheless, risks are involved in using a self-signed SSL/TLS certificate with publicly facing websites, but risks with internal websites are not less. Many times employees simply ignore the warning message faced while opening any internal site, but it can result in similar behavior towards publicly facing websites as well. If they get accustomed, they may even ignore warning messages on public sites and leaving your organization open to malware and other similar cyber threats.

Self-Signed SSL/TSL Certificate vs. SSL/TLS Certificate From Trusted CAs

Self-signed SSL/TLS Certificate SSL/TLS Certificate From CAs
Authentication Authentication is not provided. Authentication is Offered.
Issuance Self-signed means issued by the owner of the website itself. Issued and signed by a publicly trusted Certificate Authorities (CAs) such as DigiCert.
Vetting There’s no vetting process, so anyone can create it for any website, without proving they’re who they’re. An applicant of an SSL/TLS certificate has to go through proper vetting process as per the guidelines maintained by these CAs like Sectigo, which assures that they’re trustworthy.
Where It’s Used Generally used in projects made by students. It can be used by anyone, whether it’s an organization or any student trying to secure their website made as an assignment project.
Price Free of cost. Usually, not free.
PKI Supported Self-signed SSL/TLS certificate doesn’t support advanced latest Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) like Online checking of the revocation list. Equipped with the latest PKI (Public Key Infrastructure).
Security Standards Not equipped with the latest security policy. For example, it might be using low cipher or hash technologies. It provides robust security standards along with the latest ciphers and hashing technologies.
Warranty Amount No warranty amount, as it’s signed by the website owner itself. CAs offer warranty amount if anything goes wrong from their part, and your website or website visitors suffer any loss in breach.
Customer Support & Instructional Guides Customer support or instructional guides to solve queries or issues are not available. 24×7, email, telephone, and chat support, along with a separate knowledgebase consisting of countless step-by-step guides on installation and solving errors, are available.

How to Eliminate Risks Involved With Self-Signed SSL/TLS Certificate

The only option to eliminate the risk of a self-signed SSL certificate is to get an SSL/TLS certificate issued from a trusted Certificate Authority (CA) like Sectigo. It’ll help you eliminate those security warnings while protecting your customer trust and brand reputation.

Are Self-Signed SSL/TLS Certificate Secured

Self-signed SSL/TLS certificate is offered free of cost, and they also encrypt information, but web-browsers will display a warning message because the certificate isn’t verified by a trusted Certificate Authority (CAs), who goes through a different process to make them appear in the trusted list of tech giants like Microsoft, Mozilla, Google.

Does Self-Signed SSL/TLS Certificate Expire?

No, a self-signed SSL/TLS certificate doesn’t have an expiry date. It can never be revoked, and it’s one of the reasons that it’s not safe, because it won’t be able to comply with the latest security updates and will remain open to vulnerabilities.

How Do I Replace a Self-Signed SSL/TLS Certificate?

If you’ve installed a self-signed SSL/TLS certificate and you’re looking to replace it, then you’ve to first purchase a valid SSL/TLS certificate from trusted CAs like DigiCert. Then replace it with the default self-signed SSL/TLS certificate by editing the configuration file of the Nginx server.

Summary

Many IT professionals think that a self-signed SSL/TLS certificate helps to lower their security costs, but in reality, it’s a different story. Physical security, data center infrastructure, or software required for the PKI SSL system, the true costs of a self-signed SSL/TLS certificate may become costly compared to the price you pay for the SSL/TLS certificate provided by the trusted third-party CAs like Sectigo, DigiCert.

Internal or external websites, SSL/TLS certificate instilled with the latest security features is essential to maintain your brand reputation as well as customer trust, and the easiest and cost-effective way is to purchase an SSL/TLS certificate from trusted providers instead of using self-signed SSL/TLS certificate.

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