General SSL Knowledge
What is SSL?
SSL, which stands for Secure Sockets Layer, is a cyber-security protocol that digitally encrypts information sent from a browser to a server. SSL certificates are used to protect sensitive information like credit card numbers, usernames, passwords, email addresses, and more. A website with an SSL certificate is identified using a number of trust indicators, like “https” and the padlock icon in the browser bar, a site seal from a reputable Certificate Authority (CA), and a green bar that wraps around the URL on more premium certificates.
What is a Domain Validated (DV) SSL Certificate?
A Domain Validated (DV) SSL certificate is a quick and easy way to secure a domain, as the Certificate Authority (CA) issuing the certificate only requires verification that the recipient actually owns the domain they wish to cover. This verification process can typically be completed in a matter of minutes. However, these certificates offer little in the way of SSL recognition, so they are recommended for websites where visitor trust is not of high importance and information like usernames, passwords, or credit card information is not required.
What is an Organization Validated (OV) SSL Certificate?
An Organization Validated (OV) SSL certificate requires that a business complete a light vetting process by the Certificate Authority before being issued. These certificates are a nice middle-ground between DV and EV certificates, as they aren’t as expensive as EV options but still offer more SSL and trust indications than basic between DV and EV certificates. These certificates typically take between 2-3 days to be issued.
What is an Extended Validation (EV) SSL Certificate?
EV stands for Extended Validation and is the most premium type of SSL certificate available. These certificates are identified on websites mainly by the green address bar, the most universally recognized symbol of trust on the web. EV certificates are becoming more and more commonplace in the industry, especially amongst ecommerce sites, as they are used by some of the most trusted sites in the world like Bank of America, Twitter, Paypal, and more. These certificates require that a company complete a thorough vetting process before being issued.
How can I get a Green Address Bar for my website?
The only way to get the green address bar on your website is with an Extended Validation (EV) certificate. These are the only type of SSL certificate that come with the green address bar.
Can I qualify for an EV certificate?
The main criteria for qualifier for an EV certificate would be that your business is an official company registered with a government authority. Also, if you’re a Sole Proprietor or a Partnership registered in the U.K., you cannot qualify for any EV SSL certificate.
What certificates offer www and non-www coverage?
All major SSL Brands like GeoTrust, RapidSSL, Symantec, Thawte & Comodo offers coverage for www and non-www. As long as the certificate is generated with www as the common name, the non-www version will automatically be covered.
What is a Wildcard SSL certificate?
Wildcard SSL certificates can cover one main domain name (www.domain.com) and an unlimited amount of subdomains (mail.domain.com, login.domain.com, test.domain.com, etc.).
What is a Multi-domain or SAN certificate?
Multi-domain or SAN (Secure Alternate Name) SSL certificates can cover multiple domain names on just one certificate. For example, Symantec and Thawte multi-domain certificates can cover up to 25 domains, whereas Comodo certificates can cover up to 100 domains with just a single SSL certificate. GeoTrust multi-domain certificates can cover anywhere from 25 to 100 domains, depending on the type of certificate you order.
What is the difference between Wildcard and SAN/Multi-Domain functionality?
Wildcard SSL certificates can cover one main domain (www.domain.com) and an unlimited amount of subdomains (mail.domain.com, login.domain.com, test.domain.com, etc.). Multi-domain (SAN) SSL certificates can cover multiple domains on just one certificate. For example, Symantec and Thawte multi-domain certificates can cover up to 25 domains, whereas Comodo certificates can cover up to 100 domains with just a single SSL certificate. GeoTrust multi-domain certificates can cover anywhere from 25 to 100 domains, depending on the type of certificate you order.
How can I use 256-bit encryption?
256-bit encryption is a server configuration. This has nothing to do with the certificate itself, it is based on your server configuration. To learn this, you should seek information provided by your webhosting platform or operating system. They will inform you how to set this encryption strength up.
What is the difference between 1024- and 2048-bit key lengths?
These key lengths refer to the strength of the private key. You can think of it as the size of the cypher being used to encode your messages. Obviously, 2048-bit private keys are exponentially more secure than 1024-bit ones and are the new standard across the industry and are required during the generation process.
What is the difference between SHA-1 and SHA-2?
SHA stands for Signature Hashing Algorithm. It’s a mathematical hash that proves the authenticity of the certificate. SHA-1 is an older version of the algorithm that is no longer seen as secure by industry experts and major browsers and is not allowed to be used during the generation process any longer by the industry. SHA-2 is the latest version that is widely accepted and viewed as secure by all major browsers and industry experts. The hashing algorithm of your CSR has no relevance to what hashing algorithm is used on the certificate.
I'm a Sole Proprietor, can I still qualify for an OV/EV certificate?
Sole Proprietors outside of the U.K. can qualify for both OV and EV certificates. However, Sole Proprietors located in the United Kingdom or UK Partnerships cannot qualify for EV certificates, but are eligible for OV certificates, with additional documentation required.
What is a Certificate Authority and what is your relationship to them?
A Certificate Authority (CA) is the company that actually issues the SSL certificates. Symantec, Thawte, GeoTrust, RapidSSL, Certum, and Comodo are all CAs, for example. We are a reseller of these CAs, meaning that we are able to offer the exact same certificate that you would get from buying direct, but at much lower prices. We are hooked up to the API of these CAs, which is how we are able to offer the exact same products. Because we buy in bulk, we are able to offer them at the significant discounts that you see. We also offer dedicated SSL support for every certificate we offer and can help walk you through the entire process, from purchasing to generation to issuance to installation and more.
Which SSL brands are most trusted & secure?
All of the Certificate Authorities (CAs) that we carry are leaders in the industry and trusted across the world. Symantec is the largest CA in the world, and their Norton Trust Seal is the most recognized symbol of trust across the web. Their name definitely adds the most value of any CA in the industry. Additionally, GeoTrust, Thawte, RapidSSL, Certum, and Comodo are all trusted and secure CAs.
Can I see which Certification Authorities have their own Trusted CA root present in browsers?
Yes, the brands that we provide all have their roots included in modern devices and browsers. They all feature 99% or better compatibility, or browser ubiquity.
What is the SSL certificate warranty?
An SSL certificate warranty covers any damages that you may incur as a result of a data breach or hack that was caused due to a flaw in the certificate. The warranties range in value, which means that the higher value certificates come with more extensive warranties.
What is browser ubiquity or browser recognition?
Browser ubiquity or browser recognition basically means how many browsers recognize an SSL certificate and properly display the trust indicators. So, the higher the browser ubiquity of an SSL certificate, the more browsers that recognize and accept it.
How long are your SSL certificates valid for?
Our SSL certificates can be valid from anywhere to 1-3 years, depending on the certificate you choose to purchase. Per the Certificate Authority/Browser (CA/B) Forum, the governing body of the SSL industry, EV certificates can only be issued for a maximum of 2 years. DV and OV certificates from Symantec, GeoTrust, Thawte, Comodo, Certum and RapidSSL can be issued for a maximum of 3 years.
What is an Intermediate certificate?
An intermediate certificate is a file that helps the web browser identify who issued your SSL certificate. It is not required, but it is HIGHLY recommended that you install it along with your server SSL certificate in order to have full compatibility with all browsers and mobile devices.
Where do I get my Intermediate certificate?
An intermediate certificate will be emailed to you along with your SSL certificate. You can also download the intermediate certificate from the vendor’s website, which is something that can be done if you didn’t receive the intermediate via email. This is also sometimes referred to as the “CA Bundle.” It is also important to note that some certificates have multiple intermediate certificates.
Below are the links that you can use to download your intermediate certificate from the vendor website:
Can I use SSL to cover an internal domain?
You can use SSL to cover an internal domain if it is an officially registered domain (a publically available FQDN). If the internal domain is not a delegated and registered domain, the certificate will not be issued.
What if I can only use one certificate file?
If your hosting platform or company tells you that you can only use one certificate file, then you can combine your server certificate with the intermediate file.
What is the difference between 128- and 256-bit security?
That is the difference between the key lengths used once an SSL connection has been established in the browser. 256-bit security is indeed a bigger key however that does not necessarily mean it is more secure. Experts and research agrees that 128-bit is equally secure for the foreseeable future. The only reason 256-bit security is needed is if it’s specifically required by your industry or company policy.
All our certificates have the ability to use either bit-length, which one you use is a matter of server configuration, NOT certificate support.
How many domains can I secure with a Multi-Domain SSL Certificate?
This largely depends on the type of Multi-Domain SSL certificate that you purchase. Comodo Multi-Domain certificates can cover up to 100 additional domains. Symantec and Thawte certificates can cover up to 25 additional domains. GeoTrust Multi-Domain certificates can cover anywhere between 25-100 additional domains, depending on the certificate.
What is a UC Certificate (UCC)?
UC stands for Unified Communications and is a newer type of SSL certificate that is designed and primarily used for securing Microsoft Exchange 2007 and Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 products. The main difference between a UCC SSL and a standard Multi-Domain certificate is that a UCC can secure both internal network names and external domain names as well.
What is Multi Domain Wildcard SSL?
A Multi-Domain Wildcard SSL certificate can secure multiple domains and all of their associated subdomains. Basically, this certificate combines multiple wildcard domains into one certificate.
What should I do with my private key?
Your private key should always remain private. The only person that should see your private key is your hosting company, if they ask for it. However, do not delete your private key, as it is required for your certificate to work.
What should I do to expedite the validation of my order?
If you’re in a pinch and need your certificate fast, feel free to contact your SSL provider with the exact order you need expedited. They have connections with the Certificate Authorities (CAs) directly and can help make sure your urgent order is treated with top priority.
How do I know what my Control Panel/Server OS is?
If you are unsure what your Control Panel/Server OS is, we recommend that you ask your web hosting provider or your IT department.
Can I switch my method of Domain Control validation from Email to File, or vice versa?
You can switch your method of Domain Control validation from file-based to email-based for any SSL product that we provide. You can switch from email-based to file-based only for Comodo products.
If I buy a Domain Validated (DV) SSL Certificate, which document(s) do I need to provide?
You do not need to provide any documentation in order to purchase a Domain Validated (DV) certificate. All you will need to do is confirm that you own the domain you wish to cover, either through a simple email or file-based authentication.
If I buy an Organization Validated (OV) SSL Certificate, which document(s) do I need to provide?
Organization Validated (OV) verification requires checking your business registration. If the Certificate Authority (CA) can verify this information using online government databases, no additional documents will be required. However, if the online filings are not available or inaccurate or not up to date, the CA may request additional official government registration documents, which vary on a case-by-case basis. A Dun & Bradstreet listing can usually satisfy most of the requirements for an OV certificate.
If I buy an Extended Validation (EV) SSL Certificate, which document(s) do I need to provide?
EV certificates require a more stringent verification process than OV certificates. To understand the basis of this procedure, please refer to the above question about OV certificate verification. Please note that EV certificates require you to complete a few extra steps, including proving both physical and operational existence as well as completing a simple telephone call with the Certificate Authority (CA) directly.
If I buy a Code Signing Certificate, which document(s) do I need to provide?
There are two different types of validation procedures, those types being a certificate for an individual or an organization. If you apply under an organization name, please refer to the OV requirements mentioned above. If you apply as an individual developer, the Certificate Authority (CA) will require you to complete a simple form to verify your identity. This form has to be notarized by a lawyer, CPA, or public notary and you also need to provide a scan of a government issued ID and may be required to provide additional documents depending on the CA.
I haven't received my Domain Control Validation email (DCV) yet. What should I do?
There are a few reasons why this might be the case. First, verify what email address you have chosen for the Doman Control Validation email (please note: this is different from the contact information provided during the generation process). If you need to change your DCV email, you can use any email on the Whois registration for that domain or one of the five following pre-approved alias email:
Also, make sure to check the Spam or Junk Mail folder of your email provider.
I would like to change some information for my Domain Control Validation email (DCV).
If the common name needs to be changed, the only way to do so is by cancelling and reordering the certificate.
My File Authentication file has been uploaded to the wrong directory. What should I do?
Please upload your file to the correct directory. To make sure the authorization is successful make sure the file is viewable at both yourdomain.com/file and subdomain.yourdomain.com/file.
How can I reschedule the phone verification call?
In order to reschedule this, please contact your SSL provider and provide them with your availability. Please note, not all telephone numbers are suitable. The number must be verified by the Certificate Authority (CA), so please confirm the number that the CA will be calling.
My verified phone number is outdated, what should I do?
Please contact your SSL provider and confirm what source the Certificate Authority (CA) pulled the telephone number from and then seek the proper method of updating that number or creating a new listing. Your provider should be able to advise you on how to create an appropriate listing.
How long will validation take?
This largely depends on the type of certificate that you purchased and your response times. No matter which type of certificate that you purchase, the Certificate Authority (CA) will be contacting you directly and will only proceed with next steps upon your response. For Domain Validated (DV) certificates, these can typically be issued in a matter of minutes to one business day. For Organization Validated (OV) certificates, these tend to take around 2-3 business days to be issued. And for Extended Validation (EV) certificates, these usually take between 3-5 business days to be issued.
Who do I send a validation document to?
For this, we would recommend contacting your SSL provider directly. They should have a list of email addresses and other contact information for the Certificate Authorities (CAs) directly, depending on your region and what type of certificate you purchased.
Why is my order showing Failed Security Review? What does that mean?
Certificate Authorities (CA’s) randomly pull certificates aside for additional review from time to time. This does not mean you did anything wrong or that your certificate is invalid. This could also be due to an issue with your domain name. We would advise you to contact your SSL provider, who can contact the CA directly and help get this resolved quickly.
I completed validation, but never received the certificate. What should I do?
After completing validation, the Certificate Authority (CA) will send the certificate to the email address you provided as your technical contact. If, for whatever reason, the technical contact does not receive the email, please contact your SSL provider after checking your Spam and Junk Mail folders.
Can I use the email address listed in the Whois to complete Domain Control Verification (DCV)?
Yes, you can do this for DV, OV, and EV certificates.
I cannot remember or have lost my login details.
If you still have the order number they can use the automated password reminder system or if not then, an email must be sent from the administrative email address on the account to firstname.lastname@example.org. Concluding the original domain name it was purchased for, or the original order number.
I have accidentally deleted my "private key" what can I do now?
First check your backups and see if you can re-install the “private key”. If you don’t know how to re-install the key from your backups, contact your systems administrator. Failing that, contact your web server software vendor for technical support. The only alternative course of action available is a re-issuance of the certificate following the re-submitting of a replacement CSR.
I have changed my server, or moved to a different provider; how do I move the certificate?
The easiest way is to create a new CSR on the new machine and have the certificate re-issued.
What is a CSR?
A CSR stands for Certificate Signing Request and is necessary for all SSL certificates in order to complete the generation process. A CSR is generated from your server.
How do I generate a CSR?
Please consult official documentation for your server, operating system, or control panel. Most documentation can be found online through a simple Google search.
I have noticed something incorrect in my CSR. What should I do?
It is impossible to edit any fields once the CSR has been created. You will simply need to generate a new CSR with the correct details?
The CSR cannot be decoded. What does that mean and what should I do?
Make sure you have the correct file copied and not your self-signed certificate, your previous SSL, or if it is bundled as a PKCS7 or PKCS12. Or, you could have a pass-phrase that does not have alpha-numeric characters or disallowed characters. If this is the case, you will need to generate a new CSR without the disallowed characters or in the proper form. Please only use the English alphabet and numbers 0-9. For example, if the “&” symbol is included in your Organization Name, please type out “and” instead.
What should I do if I receive a 'CSR invalid' error during the certificate activation process?
If this happens, your common name is not appropriately formatted for your type of certificate (wildcard certificates should use *.domain.com, for example) or you could also have disallowed characters in other fields. Please create a new CSR that only use the English alphabet and numbers 0-9. For example, if the “&” symbol is included in your Organization Name, please type out “and” instead.
What is a private key used for?
The private key is used on the server-side exchange for creating the secure connection. It should never be exposed to your SSL provider or outside users, unless specifically requested by your web host for installation. Please note if the private key is lost or deleted, you will have to make a new CSR and private key on your server. Your private key is not provided by the Certificate Authority (CA) or your SSL provider.
The CSR cannot be decoded?
This is because it is missing one or more required fields or the CSR contains non-alphanumeric characters in the required fields.
How do I add additional domains to a multi-domain/SAN certificate?
You can add additional domains to an active certificate by reissuing it.
I entered in the wrong common name, how do I change it?
You will need to reissue your certificate and generate a new CSR.
I have accidentally deleted my "private key," what can I do now?
You will have to reissue your certificate with a new CSR.
I have changed my server, or moved to a different provider; how do I move my SSL certificate?
If you have the original private key on the active certificate, you can install it on the new server or provide it to your new web host. If you do not have the original private key, you will have to reissue your certificate with a new CSR.
Is technical support available from the CA? Should I need it?
For all technical support matters regarding your SSL certificate, you can contact your SSL provider, if needed. The CA does not provide direct support, but we will be able to help you right away, as we are more specialized. However, you can contact the CA directly for questions and support related to the actual validation process of the SSL certificate.
How do I download my certificate files?
When the certificate is issued, the Certificate Authority (CA) will send an email to the Technical Contact listed on the order. That email will contain the certificate files.
How can I install my SSL certificate on more than one server?
First, check your certificate license. There are two methods to install your certificate on multiple servers. The first method is to import the certificate, private key, and intermediate files on server #2, #3, etc. Or, create a new CSR and key file on server #2, #3, etc. and reissue the active certificate.
My certificate works in my browser, but my visitors get a Security Alert that says 'The security certificate was issued by a company you have not chosen to trust...' What is the problem?
The issue is that your visitors’ browsers are unable to properly identify who issued your certificate. First, confirm that your visitors are not seeing an incorrect or outdated certificate. Once you have made sure that your visitors are seeing the correct certificate, the issue is most likely solved by installing the intermediate certificates.
Below are the links that you can use to download your intermediate certificate from the vendor website:
Do I need a dedicated/static IP address to use an SSL certificate?
Yes, you must have a static IP address for an SSL certificate. If you do not have one, you may be able to assign one via your webserver or you may need to purchase one from your web host if you own/operate your webserver (usually only a few dollars a month).
My browser is not showing the green padlock/green bar, why?
There are several reasons why this could be occurring or a combination of several. The four most common reasons are:
- Insecure content, which means there are HTML elements on your site being explicitly linked by http. This would need to be updated via your system administrator.
- Missing or invalid intermediate chain. Your certificate is issued from an intermediate file. Make sure that you install this alongside your certificate on your server. If you do not have this file please contact your SSL provider.
- Your certificate is issued with the SHA-1 hashing algorithm. Browsers no longer trust this algorithm. You will need to reissue with SHA-2.
- It is the incorrect certificate. Sometimes your old expired certificate or a certificate provided by your hosting company or a self-signed certificate is installed on your site. You will need to identify the source of the incorrect certificate and contact that party to resolve the issue.
When trying to go to the site over https, it displays the message 'The page cannot be displayed.' Why is that?
There are actually many reasons why this could be happening, some of which could be entirely unrelated to your certificate. So, unfortunately, we can’t give specific advice. But, we would recommend clicking on the “Details” button to get more specific information about this error from the browser.
Why does the website say the name on the security certificate does not match the name of the site?
This means that URL in the browser and the common name in the certificate are not an EXACT match (for instance, the www. is missing). Another common reason for this is the web host’s certificate is incorrectly assigned to your domain name. Or, you purchased a certificate that does not cover the specific subdomain you are looking at.
Why does the website say the SSL certificate is 'Untrusted'?
This is more than likely because the intermediate certificates were never installed. Installing them should resolve this error. Below you will find links on where to locate and install your intermediate certificate, depending on the Certificate Authority that issued the cert. Or you can always contact your SSL provider.
How can I renew my SSL certificate?
A renewal is basically the same as buying a brand new certificate, “renewal” is simply an industry term that is used by all providers. So, you can go through the exact same purchasing process to renew your certificate. However, if you have access to a “renewal” option when purchasing your SSL certificate, be sure and use that so you get the remaining time rolled over from your expiring certificate to your new renewal certificate.
Do I need to create a new CSR to renew my certificate?
We recommend that you generate a new CSR to renew your certificate; however, if generating a new CSR proves to be challenging, you can use the original CSR and it will work. The drawback of using the original CSR is that it will be the exact same private key, so it’s a little less secure.
Do I need to provide my business verification document again for renewing my OV/EV SSL certificate?
Depending on the certificate details submitted with your renewal, the Certificate Authority (CA) may be able to use some previously validated information/documents. If this is an EV order, certificates validated more than 13 months are required to complete full business validation again, including providing new documentation. For OV orders, the CA can reuse previous validated information up to 39 months from the original order. Please note that if any details of your organization change, you may be required to provide additional documents.
I paid for my renewal, (where is my certificate/why is my site not secure)?
Most likely, you did not generate or apply for your renewal certificate. Think of SSL like a passport – when the old one expires you must toss it out and apply for a new one. You should be able to see in your account or via an email how to generate or apply for your new order. If you have generated, make sure that the new certificate was approved and installed in place of the old expiring certificate.
I purchased a renewal certificate, but my website still displays the old certificate. What should I do?
Most likely, you did not generate or apply for your renewal certificate. Think of SSL like a passport – when the old one expires you must toss it out and apply for a new one. You should be able to see in your account or via an email how to generate or apply for your new order. If you have generated, make sure that the new certificate was approved and installed in place of the old expiring certificate. If the new certificate is installed, then the issue is with the configuration. Common solutions to this problem are to restart your webserver (http server), also to uninstall/delete the incorrect/old certificate(s).
What is a Code Signing Certificate?
A code signing certificate is technically not an SSL certificate. It is a certificate-based digital signature algorithm that verifies a piece of code has not been altered or corrupted since it was signed by the author. You can think of it as “digital shrink-wrap” that verifies code is authentic, increasing customer trust and willingness to download and install it. All major operating systems like Windows, Apple OS X, and Linux support code signing and use it themselves to ensure malicious code can’t be distributed through the patch system.
How do I generate a Code Signing certificate? Do I need a CSR?
In order to utilize the in-browser controls provided by the CA, all applicants who are attempting to generate a code signing certificate must use Firefox as their default browser. If this browser is not properly used, the applicant will receive an Error Message. Due to the amazing in-browser controls provided by the CA, applicants who use Firefox as their browser will be able to automatically generate the CSR and store the private key within Firefox’s file system. This unique private key will automatically be pulled by the corresponding certificate during the installation/download process.
How do I download my code signing certificate?
After completing the validation process, the CA will release the certificate from their system and send a ‘collection’ or ‘pick-up’ link to the verified email address. Using the same PC which generated the order and Firefox as the browser, follow the link and download the certificate. Firefox will automatically pull the previous stored private key and install the code signing certificate. After downloading is completed, we recommend exporting the code signing certificate and private key from the browser into a PFX (.p12) file.
Why can't I download my code signing certificate?
The issue lies with either one, two or a combination of both things. First, make sure you are using Firefox as your default browser. If this browser is not used properly, you will receive an error message. Second, please make sure you are using the same PC which generated the order. If you are using a different PC, the certificate will not be able to download because the corresponding private key is missing.
How do I export my certificate from my browser?
First, it is important to note that a Code Signing Certificate can only be generated and exported from Firefox. The steps for exporting your code signing certificate and private key in Firefox are as follows:
- Click the “Open” menu
- Select “Options”
- Click on “Advanced” or “Encryption”
- Under the certificate tab, select “View Certificates”
- Under Your Certificates, click your certificate name
- Once highlighted, select “back up all” and enter in your passphrase
How do I use my platform's signing tool?
Platforms are used by developers to sign their applications using specific tools. Since each platform is different, please reference official instructions for your particular platform. The most common platforms are Microsoft, JAVA, Adobe, etc…
What platforms can I sign for?
The platforms that can be signed for are as follows:
- Windows 8
- Any Microsoft format (32 and 64 bit), EXE, OCX, MSI, CAB, DLL, and kernel software
- Adobe AIR applications
- JAVA applets
- Mozilla Object files
- MS Office Macro or VBA (Visual Basic for Applications) files
- Apple Mac software for MacOS 9 and OSX
- Microsoft Silverlight applications or XAF files