Wildcard SSL Certificates and why your company needs one

Wildcard SSL Certificates and why your company needs one

September 19, 2017
Fahimul Islam


Securing multiple subdomains can be an arduous process, but Wildcard SSL Certificates are the perfect solution to securing your company’s website if you have two or more subdomains.

Wildcard SSL Certificates are known for their multiple advantages, including cost savings, ease of installation and management, and increased security benefits.

Let’s take a look at what a Wildcard SSL is and how it can benefit your company.

 

What is a Wildcard SSL?

Comodo defines a Wildcard SSL as follows:

“A Wildcard SSL Certificate saves you money and time by securing your domain and unlimited sub-domains on a single certificate. Wildcard certificates work the same way as a regular SSL Certificate, allowing you to secure the connection between your website and your customer’s Internet browser – with one major advantage. A single Wildcard SSL Certificate covers any and all of the subdomains of your main domain.”

For example, a wildcard certificate released to the BBC using the wildcard *.bbc.co.uk will keep the main domain bbc.co.uk as secure as if it had been purchased as a straight “bbc.co.uk” SSL certificate.

But it will also broaden the SSL encryption to its sub domains. So “news.bbc.co.uk”, “www.bbc.co.uk”, “login.bbc.co.uk” and more will also be protected.

 

Benefits of using a Wildcard SSL

  • Cost Saving: A Wildcard SSL Certificate costs the same price whether you’re securing one subdomain of hundreds of them – the cost never changes.  If you have multiple subdomains to secure, a Wildcard SSL Certificate can save you hundreds or thousands versus the cost of buying individual SSL certificates.
  • Easy Installation: Using a single Wildcard SSL Certificate for all subdomains of decreases the deployment cost. Installing and maintaining a single Wildcard SSL certificate for multiple domains is simpler than installing separate SSL Certificates for each domain.
  • Easy Management: Some types of SSL certificates require extensive management, Wildcards simplify certificate management, as rather than a whole host of certificates, you’re only managing one certificate to cover a whole host of domains. One purchase, one issuance, one installation.
  • Quick Deployment: If your websites are not protected, deploying Wildcard SSL Certificates will provide security to the subdomains on demand, rather than taking a long time to wait for a new SSL certificate to be issued. Renewing and implementing updates are fast when using a Wildcard SSL Certificate.
  • Unlimited SubDomains: Wildcard SSL Certificates can secure an unlimited number of subdomains – as many as your organisation has. If you ever add more subdomains over the course of the Wildcard, you can simply reissue the certificate and those new subdomains are covered too.
  • SEO Benefits: Google gives a search ranking boost to websites that are served with SSL. You can get up to a 5% SEO boost just from having SSL installed on your domains.

Disadvantages of using an SSL Wildcard

  • Security: If you only use one certificate and private key on multiple websites and private servers, it only takes one server to be compromised and all of the others will also be vulnerable. Tim Callan from VeriSign comments:

“If I put an individual certificate on every server in my system that is secured with SSL and swapped those certificates out on an annual basis, then that is the maximum diffusion of the vulnerability. The more you get away from that, the more risk you’re undergoing in a PKI scenario. The ultimate example of this is Wildcard.”

  • Wildcard SSL Certificates won’t work for multiple levels: An SSL Certificate Wildcard for *.digitalcraftsmen.com won’t work on www.abc.digitalcraftsmen.com or site1.sitea.digitalcraftsmen.com. If you need to secure multiple levels of subdomains or completely different domain names in one certificate, take a look at Unified Communications SSL Certificates.
  • Mobile Device Compatibility: Some popular mobile operating systems don’t recognise the wildcard character (*) and so can’t use a wildcard certificate. For incompatible mobile devices, you need to either use a single certificate or get a wildcard certificate like DigiCert’s Wildcard Plus.

Choosing the best Wildcard SSL provider

It is always useful to use a comparison site to weigh up the options, as the cheapest Wildcard SSL option is not always the best.

  • What sort of validation / verification checks does the provider carry out
  • How long is the process?
  • How many servers/domains can it be applied on?
  • How much does their service cost?

The Wildcard SSL Certificate’s primary objective is to provide security, so therefore encryption should be top of the agenda.

Take a look at SSL Store’s price comparison table to get an idea of the different kind of services on offer and how much they cost.

 

Summary

Wildcard SSL Certificates are an essential component of your organisation’s digital setup, despite the minor drawbacks.

As you can see, Wildcard SSL Certificates offer incredible benefits, can secure an unlimited number of subdomains, are future proof, simplify SSL management, and give your website an SEO boost.

If you want advice with how to setup Wildcard SSL Certificates for your company, contact us at Digital Craftsmen, the managed cloud services specialists.

Need a craftsman?
Call us on: 020 3745 7706

Or send us your email address and we'll be in touch.