Understanding Wildcard Certificates: Benefits and Risks
With attackers always on the lookout for ways to breach websites and gain access to data, the need for data security and privacy is only growing. Wildcard SSL certificates are preferred by many businesses who wish to secure both primary and subdomains with a single certificate. Cost and scalability are the most important Wildcard SSL benefits. However, the benefits which promised you ease and simplicity have a possibility of violating key principles of security, including integrity, confidentiality, and non-reputation.
Want to know more about the WC SSL Certificates? Keep reading.
What are Wildcard SSL Certificates?
A wildcard certificate is a digital certificate that covers a domain and all of its subdomains. Before the domain name, an asterisk, and a period are used to represent wildcards. Wildcards are frequently used in Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificates to extend SSL encryption to subdomains.
A traditional SSL certificate is only valid for a single domain, such as www.example.com. A wildcard certificate for *.example.com protects mail.example.com, vpn.example.com, payment.example.com, and other domains. Today, any business with several subdomains requires wildcard SSL certificates to protect its security against hackers and fraudsters. This is where purchasing and installing the wildcard SSL certificate for the subdomain comes in.
Important Wildcard SSL Benefits
1. Infinite Subdomain Security– As previously indicated, Wildcard SSL safeguards an unlimited number of subdomains—as many as your organization has. If you add more subdomains within the Wildcard’s term, you don’t even need to renew it — new subdomains are automatically covered as well.
2. SSL certificate that saves money– A business with N number of subdomains must deploy N SSL Certificates, which results in significant website security costs. However, with a wildcard certificate for subdomains, a company does not have to be concerned about the high cost. Organizations can secure an infinite number of sub-domains for the same price as a single Wildcard SSL certificate.
This is especially beneficial for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) given their limited resources. By using Wildcard SSL certificatesfor their website with multiple sub-domains, they can ensure strong data security and privacy within their budgetary constraints.
3. Search Engine Optimization (SEO): Did you know that Google provides SSL-enabled websites a search ranking boost? True, based on the firm declared in 2014 the SSL became a ranking signal, and as the browser community works for ubiquitous encryption, the signal’s power has risen.
Google ranks SSL-secured websites higher. Websites may also be labelled as insecure by Google if no SSL encryption is available.
4. Users’ Trust: When compared to an unsecured website, a secured website will have higher traffic and user trust. Customers will put their faith in your website since it has the utmost encryption. Depending on the certificate you select, WildCard SSL provides domain or business validation. It also ensures website credibility by indicating that a valid certificate authority (CA) has approved your website; hence, it is secure for online buying and transactions.
5. Compatibility: Wildcard Certs for Subdomains are compatible with most servers and browsers (desktop and mobile). Many Wildcard providers offer more than 99 percent browser compatibility, ensuring that clients will have a pleasant surfing experience without encountering the SSL warning issue.
6. Easy Certificate Management: Instead of a long and arduous procedure necessary for managing multiple SSL certs, a single Wildcard certificate is installed with a single click for multiple sub-domains. Expiry, renewal, reissues, etc. need not be followed up separately for multiple certificates. So, certificate management is much simpler since firms do not have to rush after maintaining many certificates.
7. Instant Issuance: After the CA reviews company documentation, domain, and business ownership, you can acquire the Wildcard SSL certificate within just two days. Also, the sub-domains within the domain are immediately added to the certificate and protected. So, there is a minimum waiting period to protect websites with WC SSL Certificates.
Wildcard SSL Certificates Makes Encryption Cheaper, But Less Secure
Like any other technology, Wildcard SSL Certificates have their limitations. For instance, extended validation (EV) level assurance is not accessible for WC SSL Certificates. Securing second and third-level sub-domains is challenging. Few other Wildcard certificate risks which outweigh its benefits include:
- The most important reason to avoid WC SSL Certificates is that they are vulnerable to phishing attacks. Without proper control and monitoring, this certificate can be misused by hackers to exploit the trust.
For instance, if a hacker infiltrates your domain, which is secured by a Wildcard certificate, they can attain the privilege to make unlimited domains. The worst case is those subdomains will appear trusted as they’re under your Wildcard certificate. Then hackers can use these illegitimate subdomains in phishing campaigns.
- If you’ve multiple agents handling your different subdomains, Wildcard certificates necessitate sharing your private key. Using of the same private key across multiple systems increases the risk of compromise and unauthorized access.
- Some older mobile devices don’t recognize the (*) wildcard character. For incompatible mobile devices, you need to get a single certificate.
Avoid Wildcard SSL Certificate Risks
Indeed, wildcard SSL certificates are an effective option as they save money and make things easier to maintain. However, you should handle them strategically and consciously. In the event of a security attack, to limit the impact, you should use a unique certificate, which is valid only for respective domains.
With services like Entrust from Indusface offering different types of SSL certificates and various solutions for automated renewal, there is no need to go for Wildcard SSL certificates.