Are Digital Certificates Secure?

Secured Digital Certificates

What do you think of when you hear the word digital certificate? You might automatically think of the digital certificate issued by an online certificate maker, like ProofEasy. However, that’s not what we’ll be discussing in this blog. Here, we’ll talk about how secure a TLS or SSL certificate actually is.

But before we do that, let’s understand what a digital certificate (aka TLS and SSL certificate) actually is.

What is a digital certificate?

Digital certificates are online documents that contain important information about a business or its website, like organization, common name, public key, and validity period. This information is used to validate the organization’s identity.

Besides, they help encrypt data exchanged between a user’s browser and the website. Interestingly, this helps the browser maintain a secure connection and keeps bad actors out. Wondering who issue these documents digital? Such digital certificates are issued by trust-worthy third parties called the certifying authority.

Simply put, the small lock icon on your web browser’s address bar and the presence of HTTPS before a site’s address are common signs that they’re secure and have a valid digital certificate. Although a digital certificate is key to keeping your information safe when you’re browsing online, how secure are they really? Let’s take a look.

How Secure is a Digital Certificate?

A digital certificate has plenty of vulnerable spots, including:

  • Fake or compromised certificate authorities: Since a certifying authority is crucial for document certification, it’s essential that these authorities are reliable. However, bad actors might intercept the connection and issue fake digital certificates for a website you’re accessing. If the fake mimics a real certificate in most aspects, it’ll be approved by your browser. This makes it incredibly simple for hackers to monitor and steal information during your interaction with the website.
  • Phishing attacks remain an issue: Although a certifying authority is important to certify documents, sophisticated and smart bad actors might find a way around this. If they can’t breach the certifying authority, they might create a fake website and outfit it with a real-looking fake digital certificate. Again, they might be able to bypass your browser’s security mechanism and engineer a phishing attack to steal confidential information.
  • An expired certificate can be misused: You’d think a website with a lapsed validity would be the least of your worries. You’d be wrong in assuming that. An expired certificate can be used to attack your web browser and steal your personal or financial data for personal gain.
  • Lousy encryption technology: Encryption is an important part of a digital certificate. But what happens when a website uses an older and vulnerable version of the encryption technology? It leaves your browser open to online attacks from hackers who can bypass the security system easily.
  • Misconfiguration is a major issue: While the issues listed might seem serious, they have nothing on a website with a legitimate and valid certificate that’s misconfigured. It’s like having a smoke alarm at your home, but forgetting to change the batteries. You’d rest assured that the digital certificate will do its job. Instead, it just makes you more vulnerable to cyberattacks.

Despite the host of issues, regular maintenance and upkeep will keep the security system intact and keep attackers out.