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Free SSL Certificates: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

July 27, 2017 | By John Britas

SSL Certificates protect websites. Something online enterprises cannot ignore considering the rampant cyber crime existing today. But SSL security – responsible for protecting websites against identity theft and sensitive information leakage – comes at a heavy price. While most of the security experts argue that the SSL Certificate-related expense is well-worth it, this major drawback has given way for free SSL Certificates in the market. Now the question is: Are these free SSL Certificates worth it?

This blog tries to answer the above question by listing the good, the bad and the ugly associated with these free SSL Certificates.

Free SSL Certificates: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

The Good:

1. Free SSL for Everyone: Obviously the online world will benefit if “quality SSL Security” is offered for free. And it’s undoubtedly a lucrative option for enterprises which are looking for some “cheap SSL”. Sources suggest that some certificate authorities offering free SSL Certificates are giving out nearly 100,000 SSL Certificates a day. That’s a huge number and a strong indicator that free SSL Certificates are being favored by online enterprises.

2. Increased Competition amongst Certificate Authorities: Since free SSL are being increasingly favored by online enterprises, this is bound to increase the competition among SSL vendors. The result? Improved SSL technology on offer which will secure online users better, making the internet a more secure place in the future.

The Bad:

3. Free SSL only a Bare-Bones Solution: Certificate authorities offering free certificates usually provide only the “bare minimum” SSL protection which is not always sufficient to protect websites from various forms of malware threats. Technically speaking, these authorities usually offer only Domain Validation (DV) certificates. And all that is required to get this certificate is to prove to Certificate Authorities that you are the owner of a domain. Something almost anyone – even a hacker with malicious intentions – can easily do.

4. No Proper Vetting: Another huge drawback associated with domain validated SSL Security Certificates is that they are issued without proper background checks. And like said before, almost anyone can own a domain and this doesn’t prove much with regards to the organization’s identity.

The Ugly:

5. Unsuspecting Online Users get Cheated Everyday: Unsuspecting online users – those who are not aware how to check the type of certificate a website contains – may think they are communicating with trustworthy sites (because the identity of the site has been validated by a CA) without realizing that these free SSL certificates are mostly just domain validation certificates with no assurance about the identity of the organization that owns the site. So, essentially, unsuspecting online users are being deceived into “accessing not-so-well protected websites” and can, therefore, end up losing sensitive information belonging to them.

6. Raises Unnecessary Security Concerns: The online world is already rife with cyber crimes. And the fact that these certificate authorities – although they offer free SSL for everyone – are making it more vulnerable cannot be denied. The situation would’ve been different if quality SSL was on offer for free, which does not seem to be the case – at least for now. And this does raise room for speculation regarding the level of protection offered by these free SSL certificates offer.

Conclusion:

While one cannot certainly take any credit away from the Certificate Authorities trying to offer free SSL to the online world, unfortunately, the risks these free SSL Certificates seem to pose are just too many to be ignored. Because chances are, websites implementing these free SSL certificates can end up losing more than they would’ve if they used a secure SSL Certificate from a reputed Certificate Authority. So, as the security community’s been suggesting for some time now, it’s best to avoid free SSL Certificates.

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Posted in Free SSL,SSL Certificate

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