How SSL Certificate Expirations Affect your Website

Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) is a standard security technology for establishing an encrypted link between a server and a client—typically a web server (website) and a browser, or a mail server and a mail client (e.g., Outlook).

The encryption-based Internet security protocol first developed by Netscape in 1995  to ensure privacy, authentication, and data integrity in Internet communications. SSL is now the deprecated predecessor to the modern TLS encryption used today.

Usually, when you install an SSL certificate, you get the green lock icon on the browser, it is like the badge of trust. Therefore, by installing an SSL certificate on your website’s server, it allows you to host it over HTTPS and create secure, encrypted connections between your site and its visitors. This safeguards communication. SSL also authenticates the server.

3 million Let’s Encrypt TLS Certificates revoked due to CAA bug

SSL certificates expire after a certain period. There is an industry forum, the Certificate Authority/Browser Forum, that serves as a de facto regulatory body for the SSL/TLS industry. The CAB Forum legislates the baseline requirements that Certificate Authorities must follow to issue trusted SSL certificates. Those requirements dictate that SSL certificates may have a lifespan of no longer than 27 months (two years + you can carry over up to three months when you renew with time remaining on your previous certificate).

Since they have an expiry date this means that every website needs to renew or replace its SSL certificate at least once every two years. So, what happens when your SSL certificate expires?

You will get several types of notifications depending on the browser you are on.

Several users have a habit of clicking through these warning windows without reading them carefully. Visitors are highly recommended to read thoroughly the warning message flashing on the screen and respond wisely to avoid disastrous consequences.

Consequences of Expired SSL

Unlike some services that renew automatically until specifically canceled, SSL Certificates have a set expiry date. Letting an SSL Certificate expire can have a number of consequences for the website owner and also for the end user.

Reduced Health Score

As its SSL certificate nears expiration, the health score of a virtual service will automatically be lowered, indicating increased risk to the application’s availability until the certificate issue is resolved. This information can be viewed on the virtual service’s security page in the SSL section.

  • 30 days until expiration: the virtual service will incur a security penalty of 20 points, which caps the total health score at a maximum of 80 points.
  • 7 days until expiration: the virtual service will incur a security penalty of 60 points, which caps the total health score at a maximum of 40 points.
  • At expiration: the virtual service will incur a security penalty of 100 points, which sets the total health score to 0.

Diminishing visitor numbers, Your Loss, Your Competitor’s Gain

The stark pop-up window that warns about the site’s expired SSL certificate status is enough to scare the visitors away, who would make sure not to purchase from the website out of security concerns. And for any online business, customer loss and a consequent reduction in web-traffic are two very important factors, which cannot be ignored.

Sales’ Loss or reduction

Reduction in trust as the site becomes unsecure Decline in sales and revenue with increased shopping basket abandonments. Corporate brand and reputation adversely affected putting the business at riskAs per a recent survey conducted, almost 90% of customers stop the process of the transaction after getting an SSL-expiry warning, while about 72% prefer to terminate the transaction on an immediate basis. Therefore, apart from increasing the operating costs, an expired SSL certificate causes a heavy dwindling of the online sales.

Website Visitors  Face Data loss risks:

Warning error messages displayed by browsers when visiting the site Personal information at risk from man-in-the-middle attacks. Individuals are therefore susceptible to fraud and identity theft. This might cost your company an arm and a leg if data loss results to users losing their identity or are hacked.

Extensive damage to Brand’s Credibility

Your website visitors come because the trust your website, therefore if they have to face an expired SSL certificate on a website, it is results to a serious damage to the reputation of the brand. As customers are unable to make any online purchase, they start panicking at the thought of having their financial information compromised. Ponemon Institute, a research center dedicated to security policy, privacy, data protection etc, conducted a study based on customers’ reactions and attitude after they encountered an ‘expired’ certificate notice. Through the study, it was revealed that almost about one third of such customers vow never to go back to that site to make any purchase.

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