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What is a Certificate Authority (CA)?

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What is Certificate Authority

Everything You Need to Know About Certificate Authorities

New in SSL Industry and want to learn about what is certificate authority explained, role of CA & how it works? In this article, we’ll discover in depth guide about ca certificate authority.

People no longer trade their security for a lack of awareness and secured resources. Security and authenticity have become the world’s top priorities when it comes to communicating online. This communication could be through various mediums. One of the most popular mediums companies and individual business owners use for communicating with their target audience is the website.

As a result, the website’s security and authenticity become critical for both users and business owners or individuals. This is where the certificate authority comes in. But what exactly is certificate authority, and what does it do? Let’s understand it in detail before going any further. The article ahead will help you grasp the following information:

  • What is certificate authority?
  • The best certificate authority list
  • How does certificate authority work?
  • The role of a certificate authority
  • Why do we need a certificate authority?
  • what does a certificate authority do?
  • How to choose the right certificate authority?

A Brief Introduction of Certificate Authority

The certificate authority (CA) is a crucial part of security and authenticity in the modern digital world. The SSL certificate authority is a highly trusted entity that has been given the responsibility of signing and generating digital certificates. These digital certificates are verifiable, small data files that contain the credentials needed to assist websites, people, and devices in representing their authentic identities online.

Certificate authorities provide network, Internet, and authentication solutions to businesses for conducting business and smooth communication. These authorities are a key link in the internet security chain. The main purpose of these authorities is to act as trusted third parties and securely sign certificates for network entities they have authenticated using secure means. The sign stands as a proof for other network entities to verify that the certificate authority has authenticated the bearer of a certificate.

Let’s understand it in detail:

  • Digital certificates being provided by certificate authorities are like identity cards for the digital world.
  • For instance, a lock should always be present in the URL bar of a browser when you visit a secure website.
  • The lock will reveal more information when you click on it, including a statement confirming the site’s certificate is valid.
  • When you click further, you will also be able to see the other parameters included in confirming the security and authenticity of the site.
  • This certificate is issued by the ca certificate authority.

There are many certificates that a certificate authority can issue. However, if you’ve understood the above explanation correctly, you already know we are referring to the certificates governing the web browsing experiences of an individual or a group. These types of digital certificates are known as SSL or TLS certificates. We will also learn more about them going forward.

The Best Certificate Authority List

  • IdenTrust
  • DigiCert Group
  • Sectigo
  • Let’s Encrypt
  • GoDaddy Group
  • GlobalSign
  • Certum
  • Actalis
  • Secom Trust
  • Entrust

What is the Role of a Certificate Authority?

You are utilizing a website that has been verified by a CA each time you access one with HTTPS or notice the tiny padlock in the URL bar. A site has not been validated by a CA or its validation has expired whenever you visit a site that displays the warning “not secure.”

A TLS/SSL certificate from a CA is required for any website that wants to implement HTTPS and display the secure padlock. The information provided by the certificate requester, such as site ownership, name, location, and more, will be verified by the CA before a certificate is issued. In order to guarantee that every CA follows the same procedures for validation, CAs must abide by strict industry standards.

Why do We Need Certificate Authority?

In today’s digital world, where everything happens at the touch of a button and virtually all of your data is shared over the internet, to which the entire world has access, the security of your data and the authenticity of the person to whom you’re providing this data are the single most questionable point.

The security of online banking, shopping, and browsing would all be compromised without ca certificate authority. Data entered into a webform would not be secure, and a hacker wanting to temper the data between the browser and the server might potentially steal it. However, CAs verify businesses and people to help guarantee that only trustworthy websites obtain a TLS certificate.

What Does a Certificate Authority Do?

By now, you’ve understood enough about what SSL certificate authority is and why it’s important. Now, let’s break down all the different tasks that a certification authority (CA) performs.

  • Examine domain names, people, and organizations to confirm their identities using public records.
  • Create digital certificates for servers, people, and organizations.
  • Keep a list of certificate revocations that shows when certificates are rendered invalid before their expiration dates.

Let’s understand this in more depth.

1. Verification:

Typically, a website will request a digital certificate from a certificate authority. As soon as the ca certificate authority receives this request, they begin working on verifying the website’s below-listed details.

  • Domain validation: Verifying that the requester of the certificate is the valid and legitimate manager of the website.
  • Organization validation: Verifying only the domain is not enough. A trusted certificate authority goes so far as to validate the legitimacy of the organization. This includes authentication of the website manager’s business or service.
  • Extended validation: This is a long (3 to 5 day) validation process. Here, a certificate goes into a bit more depth in verifying the organizational details of the website manager. Here, all the nitty-gritty of the business is checked and verified.

Once a website manager has been successfully verified through the above stages, they’re issued a digital certificate.

2. Issue Digital Certificates:

We already talked about the SSL/TLS certificate issued by the certification authority (CA) to authenticate the identity of the website. These are just one of the many certificates issued by certificate authorities. Let’s get an overview of the different types of certificates.

SSL/TLS Certificates:

These certificates are sometimes known as “website security certificates.” These certificates make possible the safe, encrypted connections between a user’s browser and your web server.

These certificates are what make browsers stop displaying “not secure” and “your connection is not private” warnings when accessing insecure websites.

Types of SSL Certificates:

Divided by their functionalities and validation, below are their different types.

  • Single domain certificates: These certificates secure www and non-www domain names.
  • Multi-Domain certificates: As the name suggests, under a single certificate, they secure multiple domains and subject them to alternative name domains.
  • Wildcard SSL certificates: The term “wildcard” refers to subdomains. So, a wildcard SSL/TLS certificate is one that secures an unlimited number of subdomains for one domain under a single certificate.
  • Multi-domain SSL certificates: These certificates offer a little bit of everything. They allow you to secure as many subdomains as you like, in addition to allowing you to secure multiple domains with a single certificate. The most versatile wildcards are those that span multiple domains.
  • Code signing certificates: These kinds of certificates are used by publishers and developers to digitally sign their code and guarantee its integrity. Users can use this to determine whether it has been altered after it was first signed. By proving that you were the one who signed it, it also aids in authenticating you or your company.
  • Email signing certificates: Email signing certificates are helpful for establishing user and client identities with web servers. These certificates are also referred to as client authentication certificates, personal authentication certificates, S/MIME certificates, etc.
  • Document signing certificates: These certificates are helpful for verifying the document’s integrity and the authorship of the document.

3. Digital Signatures:

A digital signature is added to the digital certificate by a certification authority (CA). Simply put, a digital signature demonstrates that the trusted certificate authority has issued the certificate and that it has not been changed or replaced.

However, isn’t it possible to forge a digital signature? No, due to check-sums and hashing. But that is a whole different, more complicated topic that will lead us astray. Saying that digital signatures cannot be copied, falsified, or altered will help keep this simple.

4. The Role of Certificate Authorities in Chain of Trust:

A hierarchical trust model is used in the chain of trust, which is a collection of certificates that all go back to the issuing CA. This kind of chain uses an intermediate certificate to connect the server certificate for the website to the root. This means that the following constitutes the trust model used by all public CAs:

There are three types of certificates: root, intermediate, and server.

Root certificate: A self-signed certificate known as a root certificate is one that the CA issues and signs with its private key. Only a small number of root certificates are issued by the trusted certificate authority, and they are valid for a long time. This implies that CAs carefully guard and protect these certificates, as you might anticipate. Lists of these trusted root certificates are kept up-to-date by browsers and OS key stores.

Intermediate certificate: From root certificates, an intermediate certificate is generated. A root CA can assign its intermediate CAs the responsibility of issuing SSL/TLS server certificates. These organizations essentially act as a middleman between server certificates and the root CA. (Therefore, only the certificates they signed become invalid if an attacker compromises the key of an intermediate CA.)

Server certificate: A CA will issue a leaf certificate for your domain. The certificate that verifies your domain, subdomains, etc. is the one you upload to your server (depending on the certificate). These public certificates are only valid for a year (398 days, to be exact), beginning on or before September 1, 2020.

What if something goes wrong even after all of these validations and certificates? That’s when the next point comes into the picture.

5. The Role of Certificate Authorities in Certificate Revocation:

Practically speaking, a certificate revocation list is a blacklist of expired certificates. To indicate that a specific certificate has a problem and is no longer trustworthy, a SSL certificate authority might add it to this list of shame. Clients can check this list by contacting CAs, or website servers can also check and provide info to the clients automatically through a process called OCSP stapling.

How do I Choose the Right Certificate Authority?

When determining which SSL certificate authority to use, there are only a few factors you need to take into consideration. Each certification authority has distinct products, prices, certificate features, and levels of client satisfaction. Customer service, cost, and security reputation should always be considered when choosing a certificate authority because the majority of them provide goods with comparable features.

  • Customer service: Even if you are a seasoned server administrator, you might occasionally need a little assistance while installing SSL certificates. Your job will be made much easier if you select a trusted certificate authority with excellent customer service and straightforward administrative interfaces.
  • Security Reputation: Theoretically, all certificate authorities are secure because they must pass numerous audits. We know they aren’t all equally secure because numerous smaller and larger CAs have made serious security mistakes. Security breaches have occurred at Thawte, VeriSign, StartCom, and Comodo resellers including CertStar and DigiNotar to varying degrees. To find out if a certification authority might not be prioritizing the security of their own systems, you can keep an eye on SSL News.
  • Price: Some CAs charge nothing, while others might cost a handsome amount of money. The basic rule is that when you spend more, you get a better product, better customer service, and better tools, but the free certificate will enable the same encryption as the costly one. In general, you should choose the option with the lowest price that satisfies your requirements for customer service, brand, and interface usability.

Closing Thoughts on What is a Certificate Authority

The internet is, by its very nature, unsafe. It delivers an unmatched level of ease by putting the entire world’s knowledge at your fingertips. But as you might expect, all of those advantages come at a high cost.

You just need to glance at the news headlines to realize that identity theft, cyber attacks, and other threats and dangers are pervasive. You need a dependable third party on your side who can bring identity and trust to the table if you want to be able to surf the web or use its features to benefit your e-commerce business.

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