The wildcard SSL certificate is perceived to be a powerful defense against security threats, but does it make any difference to your website’s security?
It sure does, but you need to know everything about it before purchasing one to get the most out of this SSL type.
Therefore, we shall now discuss this SSL type and the core issues it can resolve. If that sounds like something you are interested in, then read on because we are about to dive deeper into this SSL type, its features, benefits, the problems it can solve, and a lot more.
Decoding a Wildcard SSL Certificate
The wildcard SSL certificate gets its name from the wildcard character, or the asterisk used to represent all the subdomains during its issuance. The wildcard character auto-defines all the current and future subdomains and protects them automatically.
This is not the case when you buy a multi-domain SSL that requires the user to define the subdomains individually each time it is created.
Nevertheless, this concern can be overcome by procuring a multi-domain wildcard SSL certificate. Speaking of wildcard SSL types, there are two types — single domain and multi-domain wildcard SSL certificates. As the name implies, a single domain wildcard SSL encrypts only the primary domain and its first-level subdomains.
The multi-domain wildcard SSL does the same but for multiple domain names. To understand the benefits of a wildcard SSL, it is very important to know what subdomains are, so let’s figure that out.
The Domain Name System (DNS) breaks down a URL into three different parts. So, www.google.com is a URL that has three parts in it. The ‘www’ is known as the subdomain and can be replaced with ‘blog’ ‘cart’ or any other keyword. Then comes the domain name, which in this case is ‘google.’ The third part ‘com’ is known as a top-level domain (TLD).
The domain name and the TLD together constitute a root domain, on which you can create any number of subdomains. Ensure to encrypt each subdomain with an individual domain validated (DV) SSL certificates or a single wildcard SSL certificate. With that out of the way, let us now discuss the core benefits of a wildcard certificate.
Benefits of Wildcard SSL Certificates
Wildcard SSLs are an incredible and scalable addition to any IT infrastructure and bring a wide range of benefits. We shall now discuss some of those benefits and analyze the main issues a wildcard SSL can help resolve.
1. Wider Encryption Coverage
As we have already discussed, the wildcard SSL provides higher encryption coverage and protects all the subdomains of a primary domain. This is not the case when you install a domain validated or standard SSL which can only encrypt a particular primary domain or a subdomain.
That does not suffice the needs of present-day businesses with online stores, login pages, contact forms, etc. The need of the hour is a comprehensive SSL that can protect everything with minimal effort, and that is exactly what a wildcard SSL does.
2. Better Security
Wildcard SSLs add an extra layer of security to websites, especially when you invest in one that comes from a reputed brand. For example, the Comodo Positive SSL provides:
- Unlimited free re-issuances.
- A warranty of one million US dollars in case of mis-issuance.
3. SEO Advantage
The wildcard SSL is a one-stop solution for small and mid-sized websites that struggle with multiple domains to get an SEO advantage. Since each subdomain is treated as an independent domain, businesses can create as many as they want.
Plus, the HTTPS on every subdomain boosts the site’s SEO rankings on Google, which now follows the HTTPS-Everywhere model more seriously than ever before.
4. Easy to Manage
Managing multiple SSL certificates on your website can be a tedious process because you need to individually install, track, and renew the SSL certificates. However, this is not the case when you use a wildcard SSL because it minimizes the number of certificates which simplifies the SSL management process.
5. Wildcard SSLs and Associated Security Risks
Like any other technology, even the wildcard certificates are not entirely secure, but there are ways to mitigate the risks associated with them. We shall now discuss some of those risks, how they occur, and what you can do to prevent them.
6. Web Server and Related Risks
If your business uses shared web hosting or the VPS hosting plan, your site is not secure. For all you know, you might be sharing your server’s resources with a rogue website intentionally created to launch attacks on other sites hosted on the same server.
Unfortunately, it is a common tactic used by cybercriminals to inject malware into other sites by storing malicious files and folders on the server. You can easily prevent this by using a dedicated server to host your website.
7. Private Key Theft
It would be best if you kept the private key secure, else it could lead to dire consequences. So, make sure to install the SSL yourself and store the private key on a pen drive, tucked away from your employees and contractors.
Wildcard SSLs are indeed useful in preventing cybercrimes but do not eliminate the possibility of cyberattacks. That requires a combination of security measures that work in tandem with the SSL certificate to keep your website secure.
Nevertheless, it is a proven defense against packet sniffing, man-in-the-middle attacks, credential stealing, and several other forms of security threats.