You may need help with the certificates you must deploy as a business owner. On the one hand, you have an inexpensive self-signed certificate; on the other, you have the CA-signed certificates. Self-signed certificates are less trusted and don’t provide third-party validation but are free and quick to generate. The certificate authority (CA) signed certificates provide trusted third-party assurance, but they come at a price and require additional verification steps.
Here, we explore both types of certificates and see which one you should use for your business.
Self Signed Certificate
A self-signed certificate is a digital certificate signed by the person creating it. Self-signed certificates, such as HTTPS websites, can secure communications. Still, browsers and devices do not authorize them by default because there is no third-party validation of the certificate owner’s identity or authenticity. Self-signed certificates can be helpful for internal or non-public purposes, but they are not recommended for public-facing websites or applications.
Self-signed certificates are primarily used for internal or non-public purposes where the level of trust is less critical than with public-facing websites or applications. Small organizations that don’t have the budget for a CA certificate may use a self-signed certificate for internal purposes or for a website or application that is not publicly accessible. Note that self-signed certificates are not trusted by browsers and devices by default. A self-signed certificate may be sufficient for personal or internal use as it is free and quick to generate. They should not be used for public-facing websites or applications where trust and security are essential considerations.
Certificate Authority (CA) Certificate
A CA (Certificate Authority) certificate is a digital certificate issued by a trusted third-party organization called a certificate authority. Its purpose is to verify the identity of a website or application and encrypt communication between the website/application and its users. It provides a higher level of trust than self-signed certificates, as the CA verifies the owner’s identity and the certificate’s authenticity before issuing it. By default, the browsers and devices trust CA certificates.
They automatically charge and establish encrypted connections with websites or applications with CA certificates. They are commonly used for public-facing websites or applications to secure communications and establish trust with their users. DigiCert, GlobalSign, and Comodo are well-known certificate authorities.
Which is Better – Self Signed or CA Certificate
A CA (Certificate Authority) certificate is recommended for public-facing websites or applications as it provides trusted third-party validation and encryption. They are issued by Certificate Authority and are trusted all over. By default, web browsers and devices rely on CA certificates. This effectively means they automatically charge and establish encrypted connections with websites or applications with CA certificates.
The CA certificates also provide a higher level of security as the certificate authority verifies the certificate owner’s identity and the certificate’s authenticity before issuing it. When using a CA certificate, your user can be confident that their communication is secure and that the website or application is legitimate. On the other hand, self-signed certificates are suitable for internal or non-public purposes, such as testing or personal projects, as they are free, quick to generate, and do not require third-party validation. Thus, they provide a different level of security and trust than CA certificates.
Factors Governing Use of Self-Signed and CA Certificate
While both self-signed and CA certificates can be used to secure communications, a CA certificate is generally considered a better option for public-facing websites or applications due to its higher level of trust, security, and user confidence.
Public Facing or Internal Sites
The choice between a self-signed certificate and a CA certificate depends on the use case and the necessary level of trust. Generally, a CA certificate is recommended for security and trust purposes for public-facing websites or applications. For internal or non-public purposes, a self-signed certificate may be sufficient. By using a CA certificate, organizations can establish trust with their users and secure communications, providing confidence in the identity of the website or application and the security of sensitive information.
With a CA-issued certificate, the CA can revoke the certificate immediately if it is misused or the private keys get compromised. No doubt, you can stop trusting self-signed certificates, but there’s no mechanism to revoke them. So, if a self-signed certificate has been wrongly issued or misused, no one can take disciplinary action against it and withdraw it.
The maximum validity period of CA certificates is two years, whereas free CA-signed SSL certificates provided by some non-profits have three months of validity. These renewal procedures and validation dates are strictly monitored and regulated by the CA/B Forum. So even if you have bought a certificate for five years, you must go through the validation and installation process again after two years or its expiry date.
On the other hand, the self-signed certificates expire, but each expiration differs depending on the system you use to issue them. They don’t have a specific validity period. The user can make it for one year or fifteen years. Hence, you can’t trust a self-signed certificate’s validity dates.
Ultimately, the choice between self-signed and CA certificates will depend on your business’s specific requirements and needs. You must opt for a CA-signed certificate if you have a public-facing website. On the other hand, if you have an internal site and sites used in testing environments, consider using a self-signed certificate. Thus, if security and trust are essential considerations, it is recommended to use a CA certificate.
However, a self-signed certificate may be a better option if the cost is a concern or if you will only use the certificate for internal purposes. Just be sure to remember to swap out any self-signed certificates for CA certificates before making any sites in the testing environment live!