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It is common knowledge that any severe webmaster in this time and age needs to install a proper SSL certificate on their site to protect sensitive customer data. With the rise of hard-hitting cyberattacks and data breaches the world over, HTTP sites just do not cut it anymore. Even regular internet visitors have mastered smart cyber security techniques like enabling Two-factor authentication; which adds an extra layer of security to your online accounts such that even if a hacker were successful in accessing your login details, their effort would be futile if, for instance, they do not have your phone where a one-time password (OTP) is sent. These and so many more web safety measures seek to make the internet a better place. However, not everyone is fluent in the language of computers. Installing an SSL Certificate on your site is easier said than done. Below we look at common mistakes to avoid while executing this essential step on your site.
1. Using Self-Signed Certificates
Let us face it, blowing your whistle is one of the ridiculous things to do in the world. Even presidents and high-ranking officers are first vetted by the powers before being deemed fit for office. Using a self-signed certificate is like showing all the reputable certificate authorities that have executed the job successfully since the beginning that they can pack their bags and let you run the web. No one likes such behavior, and so leading browsers will automatically sideline you and warn visitors that they should only visit your site at their peril. Therefore, avoid self-signing your certificate.
2. Picking your Certificate Authority (CA) Unwisely
Although you may not run a large website with fat pockets, one thing for sure is that you want to gain customer trust and increase conversions. Therefore, when choosing your CA, do not just look at the cost aspect. It is good to note that leading browsers like Google, Opera, and Firefox have a list of trusted CAs authorized to issue SSL certificates. If your issuing certificate authority is not on this list, the chances are high that your site will be marked as insecure, which is an instant turn off to prospective clients. A trusted CA also comes with recognizable trust seals and added security features.
3. Generating a Certificate Signing Request Haphazardly
To migrate your site from HTTP to HTTPS, you must first generate a Certificate Signing Request (CSR). This can be done from tool or server. When conducting this process, you have to be super keen and ensure that every detail is entered correctly. Follow the guidelines given by the tool/server you are using and ensure that all websites and company details are accurate. Missing any step can lead to the incomplete CSR generation.
4. Being Unprepared for Validation
Any wise students usually have their notes ready and well revised before an exam. Only a fool walks to any validation process unprepared. Before issuing you with an SSL Certificate, a CA will first seek to authenticate your identity. If, for instance, you want a Domain-validated certificate, you need to prove you own the domain by correcting the WHOIS registry information. For complex certificates like OV and EV certificates, however, you will need to provide extensive details like company registration numbers, location, publicly listed phone numbers, and so on. Answering any of these crucial details, wrongly can delay the process or disqualify you entirely.
5. Mishandling Your Private Key
During the CSR generation process, a private key is also generated on your computer. Usually, this key is used to decrypt the encrypted data being sent from client browsers to your web server. Anyone with this key can intercept the incoming data to your site, and as such, it should only be for your eyes. Should you misplace it, your certificate will not work at all. If it falls into the wrong hands, your site is no longer secure. In such cases, you would have to get the CA to issue you a new certificate. To prevent that from happening, protect your private key like your newborn baby.
6. Ignoring Installation Instructions
The know-it-all nature of humankind is what brings about most problems that we face in the universe. Most SSL certificates come with step-by-step guides to guide you through every step of the installation process until your server is configured. Being internet-savvy does not necessarily mean that you know your way around servers. So please be humble and follow all the command lines listed in the guide.
7. Being Proud to Ask for Help
Let us be real; everyone messes up sometimes. What matters is what you do after an error occurs. Installing an SSL Certificate may not be an easy process for anyone without an IT background. If you have tried your best but then realize you have hit the wall at some point, instead of acting all James Bond and creating a bigger mess, kindly pick up the phone or jump on online chat with customer support. They will be glad to help.
8. Skipping the Testing Part After Installation
Vehicle manufacturers usually crash-test any new model before putting it out there, regardless of the assembling cost. The reason being you need to be sure something works as intended before releasing it to the market. The same goes for your SSL Certificate. Once you complete the installation process, test, and see that the HTTPS protocol has affected all your web pages. Check for other features like trust seals, a padlock, and a company name like an EV SSL certificate.
9. Forgetting Renewal Dates
Like with most things in life, SSL certificates do not last forever; they need constant renewals. All SSLs have a lifespan of 13 months, and you can always check your certificate file to see when your renewal date is due. CAs vouch for your online identity, and as such, they need to authenticate your details from time to time. To avoid having moments of insecurity when you have forgotten to renew on time, make a habit of doing it a couple of months before the expiry date.
Having an SSL certificate on your website is no longer optional; it is mandatory. It comes with numerous benefits like increased customer trust and conversions, higher search engine rankings, etc. Any webmaster should, therefore, take their time to ensure that the installation phase runs smoothly. Web visitors also need to protect themselves from data breaches by enabling two-factor authentication and visiting only HTTPS-enabled sites.