Why do SSL Certificates have Date of Expiration?

Decoding the expiration of SSL, one of the key things you should know about SSL Certificates

It’s a question that we always get: Why are SSL certificates expiring?

To be real, the whole time. Particularly on a site with a name like SSLRenewals.com. ‘Why should I renew this again? ‘Or’ Is that some sort of racket? No, it’s not a racket or scam, it’s for a few very good reasons — but we certainly understand why it looks like that.

SSL isn’t perishable, after all.

It’s not like a milk carton or a loaf of bread — it’s not going to go bad, per se. But there are still good reasons to limit the lifespan of SSL certificates — actually, two of them.


Reason 1: For Purposes of Identification

One of the best metaphors for SSL is a passport or driver’s license, we’ll go with driver’s license for the sake of this exercise. Two primary functions include a driver license and an SSL certificate. On the one hand, a driver’s license grants you access to the roads and the ability to drive on them. SSL facilitates encryption via the SSL protocol, it basically gives you permission to use secure connections. One is a vehicle in transit; one is data in transit — hey, let’s not try to go too deep into this metaphor.

The other function they both serve is to authenticate identity. And the issuing agency – the DMV or the Certificate Authority (CA) – occasionally need you to come back and check in so they can keep up to date information about you on record.

That is particularly important in the cybersecurity realm. By default, the browsers that we use to navigate the web don’t trust individual websites. Browsers are designed to keep users safe and by virtue of that, they ‘re skeptical of everything and everyone. In order for a browser to trust a website, it needs to see that is has been authenticated by a trusted third party.

CAs represent that trusted third party. To be a trustworthy CA, you must adhere to the strict requirements established by the CA / Browser forum – which serves as the regulatory body for the industry – and any errors that CA makes against it will and should be used. This ensures that maintaining up-to – date information on the sites that it addresses is in the best interest of the CA too, since they vouch for the identity of those pages for all intents and purposes.

By making you renew at least every two years the CA can ensure that it has accurate identification information about the company or organization to which it is issuing, as well as ensuring that the company still owns the registered domain. Domains are changing hands all the time, after all.

Expirations and renewals on the part of the CAs clearly allow for good safety hygiene. Needless to say …

Reason # 2: Expiry Allows to Improve SSL Encryption Technology

The other reason SSL certificates have to expire is that they are technical. Advances in the SSL / TLS protocol and in encryption technology in general are made on a regular basis. The SHA-1 hashing algorithm will be fully discontinued in the coming months, and implementation of TLS 1.3.

That is two changes to MAJOR. SHA-1 has been known to be vulnerable for years and has been replaced by the more secure SHA-2 algorithm. TLS 1.3 is a completely new version of the TLS protocol. In order to be as secure as possible, SSL needs to be implemented with SHA-2 encryption and TLS 1.3.

Now remember what if SSL certificates never expired. Yeah, yes, upgrading or reissuing the certificate would be possible, but let’s be honest — a lot of companies and organizations install their SSL certificate once and leave it alone until it expires.

So, SSL that didn’t expire, or even SSL with validity periods of longer than two years (you used to be able to get up to five years), would eventually become insecure. Old , outdated ciphers, outmoded hashing algorithms, and other implementation issues would be commonplace. The SSL ecosystem as a whole would be a mishmash of capabilities, because sites with newer certificates would be significantly safer than sites with older ones.

Eventually, it would reach a point where browsers would start removing support for various outdated features and render valid SSL certificates useless as they could no longer make secure connections.

Having SSL certificates expire avoids all of that. By requiring everyone to buy a new certificate at least once every two years, it forces sites to adapt the latest, most secure technology on an ongoing basis.

Literally, exhalation makes you healthier.


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