What is Root Certificate?
The Basics of What is a Root Certificate, How It Works and How Do I Download it?
Discover what is root certificate, how it works and how you can download it safely. Our easy-to-follow guide will help you understand root certificates in minutes!
A root certificate is a critical component of online security and plays an important role in ensuring the safety of internet communications. It acts as the foundation for establishing a secure connection between a website and a user’s browser.
The primary job of the root certificate is to verify the authenticity of a website. Doing so helps prevent malicious actors from presenting a false version of the website and stealing sensitive information, such as login credentials and financial information.
Understanding the concept of root certificates and how they work is essential for ensuring online safety and protecting against cybersecurity threats. In this article, we will dive deeper into the topic of root certificates and explore how they function to keep our online communications secure.
What is a Root Certificate?
A root certificate is a digital certificate that is issued by a trusted third-party entity known as a Certificate Authority (CA). It is used to verify the identity of a website or organization and establish a secure connection between the website and a user’s browser.
The root certificate acts as a foundation for the trustworthiness of a website, allowing the user to have confidence that the website they are visiting is authentic and secure. It contains information about the identity of the website, such as its name, location, and public key.
When a user visits a website, their browser checks the root certificate of the website against its own list of trusted root certificates. If the root certificate is on the list, the browser establishes a secure connection with the website and the user can safely exchange information with the website.
Root certificates play a critical role in ensuring the security of online communications and protecting users from cyber threats.
How Root Certificates Work?
Root certificates work by verifying the identity of websites and establishing secure connections between websites and users’ browsers. Here are the steps that explain how root certificates work:
- Issuance: A Certificate Authority (CA) issues a root certificate after verifying the identity of a website or organization. The root certificate contains information about the identity of the website, such as its name, location, and public key.
- Website Connection: When a user visits a website, their browser checks the root certificate of the website against its own list of trusted root certificates.
- Certificate Verification: If the root certificate of the website is on the list of trusted root certificates, the browser establishes a secure connection with the website.
- Secure Communication: With a secure connection established, the user and the website can safely exchange information, such as login credentials, financial information, and other sensitive data.
- Continuous Monitoring: Root certificates are continuously monitored by the browser to ensure their continued validity and to protect against any compromise.
Root CA Certificates and the Certificate Chain
Root CA certificates and the certificate chain are important components of the public key infrastructure (PKI) used to secure online communications.
Root CA certificates act as the foundation for establishing trust between a website and a user’s browser. This provides users the confidence that the website they are visiting is authentic and secure.
The certificate chain, also known as the trust chain, refers to the sequence of digital certificates that begins with a root certificate to the website’s digital security certificate, through an intermediate certificate.
The intermediate certificates, here, work as dividing layers between root and end-entity certificates. Root certificates are used for issuing the intermediate and an intermediate certificate is used for issuing end-entity certificates such as SSL/TLS, code signing certificates, etc.
The certificate chain is used to establish trust between the website and the user’s browser. When a user visits a website, the browser checks each certificate in the chain to ensure that the website’s digital certificate was issued by a trusted root CA.
The certificate chain provides a hierarchical structure for verifying the authenticity of websites to ensure the safety of sensitive information, such as passwords, credit card details, and others.
How Do I Download It?
Typically, you are not required to download a root certificate as your browser may already have it installed on their trust stores. Even some operating systems have root certificates pre-installed, which allows your computer to tell if your certificate is valid or not.
If the root CA certificate isn’t on the trust store of browsers of OS, you’ll get an alert saying the certificate is not trusted or invalid. However, if you have purchased your digital security certificate from a relatively new CA, you don’t need to worry because this trust list frequently gets updated to include new root certificates.
But in any case where you absolutely need to download your root certificate, you can contact your Certificate Authority for the same and ask for a root CA certificate.
How to Know Whether a Certificate Is a Root Certificate?
You can determine whether a certificate is a root certificate by following these steps:
- View the certificate: In your browser, visit the website you want to check, and click on the padlock icon in the address bar to view the website’s certificate.
- Check the Issuer: In the certificate details, look for the “Issuer” field. If the Issuer field lists the same organization as the “Subject” field, then it’s a root certificate.
- Verify the trust chain: If the Issuer field lists a different organization than the “Subject” field, then the certificate is likely an intermediate certificate. To verify that the certificate is a root certificate, follow the trust chain by checking each certificate and ensuring that the final certificate in the chain is a root certificate with matching “Issuer” and “Subject” fields.
When a root CA Certificate expires, how does it affect me?
When a root CA certificate expires, it can have significant consequences for your online security. Here’s how it affects you:
- Insecure connections: When a root CA certificate expires, it can no longer be used to verify the identity of websites. This means that your browser will not be able to establish a secure connection with the website.
- Increased risk of cyber threats: An expired root CA certificate increases the risk of cyber threats such as phishing, man-in-the-middle attacks, and malware infections.
- Interrupted access to websites: If you rely on a root CA certificate that has expired, you may not be able to access websites that use the certificate. This could be especially problematic if you rely on these websites for important tasks such as online banking or other sensitive transactions.
Typically, root CA certificates have a longer expiration date, some even lasting up to 25 years. However, when a root certificate expires, it can cause service outages, website, software downtime, bugs, and other issues.
What can I do to resolve issues from the expired root CA certificate?
It’s important to keep your root CA certificates up to date to ensure the security of your online communications. If you encounter issues due to an expired root CA certificate, here’s what you can do to resolve the problem:
- Try updating your browser: Make sure your browser is up to date, as this may resolve the issue automatically. Some browsers will automatically update their root CA certificates, but others may require you to manually update the certificates.
- Install/update a root CA certificate: If your browser does not automatically update the root CA certificate, you can manually install a new certificate. You can download a new root CA certificate from the website of the Certificate Authority (CA) and manually update it.
- Disable SSL certificate validation: As a temporary workaround, you can disable SSL certificate validation in your browser. However, this is not recommended as it can compromise the security of your online communications.
- Contact the website owner: If you continue to encounter issues accessing a website, you can contact the website owner to report the problem and ask them to resolve the issue with their SSL certificate.
Final Conclusion of What is Root Certificate
Root certificates are crucial for the security of online communications between users and websites. They are an essential part of the trust chain that helps maintain the confidentiality and integrity of the data being transmitted.
In the rapidly evolving world of technology, staying informed about the latest developments in online security and taking steps to protect your personal and sensitive information is more important than ever. By understanding root certificates and how they work, you can play an active role in securing your online communications.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What does a root certificate do?
A root certificate is a digital certificate that is used to verify the identity of a website and establish a secure connection between your browser and the website. Root certificates are issued by trusted Certificate Authorities (CAs), and are used to verify the authenticity of the website and protect against cyber threats.
2. Is the root certificate the same as the private key?
No, the root certificate and private key are not the same. The root certificate is a digital certificate that is issued by a Certificate Authority (CA) and used to verify the identity of a website. The private key is a unique, secret code that is used to encrypt and decrypt data and is kept confidential by the website owner.
3. Do I need a root certificate?
As a website owner, it is highly recommended that you obtain a root certificate for your website. A root certificate verifies the identity of your website and allows visitors to establish a secure connection, protecting their sensitive information and ensuring their trust in your website.
4. Do I need to install a root certificate?
As an individual, you typically do not need to install a root certificate on your device. Your browser or operating system automatically comes with a set of trusted root certificates that are used to verify the identity of websites. However, in some cases, you may need to install a root certificate if you are accessing a website that is using a custom root certificate that is not recognized by your browser or operating system.
5. What happens when the root certificate is not trusted?
When a root certificate is not trusted, your browser or operating system will warn you that the connection to the website is not secure. This means that the identity of the website cannot be verified, and the information being transmitted could potentially be intercepted or altered by an attacker.
6. What happens when the root certificate expires?
When a root certificate expires, it becomes invalid and your browser or operating system will no longer trust the identity of the website that is using the expired root certificate. This can cause security issues and interrupt your access to the website.