SSL/TLS Certificate Best Practices for 2021 and Beyond
SSL and its successor, TLS, are encryption-based security protocols that enable businesses to ensure integrity, privacy and security of data in internet communications. SSL certificates help prevent a range of cyberattacks including eavesdropping, spoofing and man-in-the-middle attacks, among others.
SSL/ TLS certificates, however, do not guarantee the trustworthiness of the website. There are flaws and vulnerabilities in the certificates and the websites that erode the security posture. By implementing the latest SSL certificate best practices, businesses can improve SSL security and overall web security.
SSL Certificate Best Practices for 2021 and Beyond
Choose a Reliable Certificate Authority (CA)
One of the most critical SSL Certificate best practices in 2021 and beyond is choosing the right Certificate Authority. Being trusted issuers of certificates, CAs verify the organization and server before issuing certificates and digital signatures. This is critical for proper authentication of servers, individuals and organizations and building trust.
The best SSL certificate providers offer highly secure products and holistic SSL security solutions. Their offerings include a robust and end-to-end certificate management system that helps monitor, maintain and manage SSL certificates. They respond swiftly to discoveries of vulnerabilities or flaws that affect user security and privacy.
The best SSL certificate providers offer extensive support and services to clients as and when required. Trusted CAs put themselves through rigorous third-party audits to maintain their position in major browser root certificate programs and operating systems. In other words, they value their own security and reputation as much as their clients.
Choose the Right Kind of SSL Certificate
While buying SSL certificates, a key criterion is the level of validation. Domain validation (DV) offers weakest authentication and is not recommended, other than for static websites and blogs. Other organizations must choose Organization Validation (OV) at the very least. Extended Validation (EV) offers the highest level of authentication with visible signs of security and is strongly recommended for big organizations and e-commerce websites.
It is best to avoid multi-server certificates as it involves duplication of private keys. If one of the servers is compromised, all other servers protected by the certificate face security risks.
Wildcard SSL certificates are not recommended either. They allow sharing of private keys, which is detrimental to SSL security. Further, there is a lack of control and ownership which amplifies security risks. They do not offer EV options either.
Generate and Secure Private Keys
Private keys are like CVV numbers and must be kept as securely as possible. Sharing private keys defeats the purpose of using SSL certificates. Here are the SSL security best practices relating to private keys.
- Use strong private keys with 256-bit encryption, the most secure encryption available.
- Protect private keys using strong passwords.
- Do not use MD5 or SHA1 hashing algorithms on public web servers.
- Generate private keys in a secure environment.
- Do not share or duplicate private keys.
- Follow the least privilege principle while giving access to private keys.
- If someone needs to be given access to private keys, use an encrypted email with predefined expiry.
- If employees having access to private keys leave or if private keys get compromised, revoke all certificates corresponding to the keys and reissue certificates with new key pairs.
- Always generate new private keys for new certificates.
Proper Server Configurations are Important
Poor server configuration, use of cryptographic algorithms with known vulnerabilities and use of older SSL/ TLS versions are leading causes of poor SSL security. By leveraging TLS server tests, crypto agility scans, etc. you can review server configurations on a regular basis. You can identify vulnerabilities, report low scores and get alerts in case of policy/ best practice violation. Further, ensure that all web servers, operating systems and applications are patched and up-to-date to minimize security risks.
Effective Certificate Management is Critical to SSL Security
Organizations typically have a multitude of SSL and other digital certificates, each of which come with built-in expirations. If they are not renewed on time, the online communications and business data are left open to attacks. It is an SSL certificate best practice that you continuously monitor SSL certificates to prevent major issues. Here are some of the SSL certificate management best practices for 2021 and beyond:
- Leverage a holistic and intelligent Certificate Management System (CMS) like Entrust from Indusface to improve security. They enable organizations to seamleSSLy monitor and manage digital certificates in a centralized manner.
- Full visibility into the certificate lifecycle and real-time insights and alerts on issues, renewals, expirations, revocation, etc. are crucial for effective certificate management.
- Keeping an inventory of SSL certificates along with installed locations, ownership, etc. are important.
- Leverage intelligent automation in certificate management.
Other SSL Certificate Best Practices
- Build secure by design web applications
- Back SSL certificates with multi-layered, intelligent web security
- Keep updated on latest vulnerabilities and take instantaneous measures to secure your certificate and website.
Secure online communications and nurture customer trust. Implement the latest SSL certificate best practices.