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What Is A Wildcard SSL Certificate?

WRITTEN BY
Daren Low
UPDATED
June 18, 2024

 

Imagine your website as a bustling metropolis, with various districts representing your subdomains. You have the shopping district, the blog neighborhood, and even a lively forum avenue. But how will you protect this digital city?

 

Well, this is where wildcard SSL certificates come in. Think of them as a defensive barrier that provides security to every corner of your online empire in one swoop.

 

In this article, we’ll embark on a journey through the intricacies of wildcard SSL certificates. We’ll unravel their inner workings, discover the benefits they bring to your online presence, and walk through some key considerations to keep in mind.

 

So, grab a mug of your favorite beverage, sit back, and let’s explore the fascinating realm of wildcard SSL certificates. By the end, you’ll wield the knowledge and confidence to protect your digital kingdom from any lurking threats.

 

 

What Is An SSL?

 

First, we need to make sure we’re all on the same boat when it comes to SSL certificates in general. Let’s go for a quick sail:

 

SSL, or Secure Sockets Layer, is a protocol that establishes a secure encrypted connection between a web server and a browser. The SSL certificate, often represented by a small padlock icon in the browser’s address bar, confirms that the website you’re visiting is authentic and can be trusted.

 

SSL protection your website and visitors

SSL certificates safeguard your website and all your visitors from cyber threats.

 

Having an SSL assures your visitors that any sensitive information, such as passwords, credit card details, or personal data, remains private and inaccessible to malicious actors. In simpler terms, it’s like a virtual bodyguard that protects the data exchanged between your website and its visitors.

 

Certificate Authorities (CAs), a.k.a. trusted organizations responsible for verifying website owners’ identities, grant SSL certificates. These certificates also come in various types, including Domain Validation (DV), Organization Validation (OV), and Extended Validation (EV).

 

 

What Is A Wildcard SSL?

 

If your site has multiple subdomains, a wildcard SSL may be the most efficient option for you. Think of it as a digital shield that covers an unlimited number of subdomains under the main domain!

 

Here’s how it works: Typically, when you secure a website with an SSL certificate, it only protects that specific domain (e.g., www.yourwebsite.com). However, with a wildcard SSL certificate, you can secure not just the main domain but also all its subdomains with a single certificate.

 

wildcard ssl

Wildcards ensure that your SSL needs are met across the board. (Source: SSL Dragon)

 

The magic lies in the asterisk (*) symbol, which acts as a wildcard character. By placing an asterisk in the subdomain section of the certificate, it acts as a placeholder, indicating that any subdomain under the main domain should be covered. For example, if you have subdomains like blog.yourwebsite.com, shop.yourwebsite.com, and forum.yourwebsite.com, a wildcard SSL certificate for “*.yourwebsite.com” will secure all these subdomains.

 

Wildcard SSL certificates provide a convenient and cost-effective solution for websites that have multiple subdomains or anticipate adding more subdomains in the future. Instead of obtaining and managing separate certificates for each subdomain, a wildcard SSL certificate simplifies the certificate management process.

 

Depending on the certificate type, wildcard SSL certificates are typically available for Domain Validation (DV) and Organization Validation (OV) levels, offering varying levels of validation and security features.

 

 

How To Get A Wildcard SSL For Your Website

 

dont skip prep work

Don’t skip the prep work! It’s vital for a hassle-free application process.

 

Now that we understand how wildcard SSL certificates work, you might be wondering how to get your hands on one. The process of obtaining a wildcard SSL certificate involves a few essential steps. Let’s walk through them:

 

  1. Determine your SSL certificate needs
    Start by assessing your website’s requirements. Identify the number of subdomains you have or anticipate in the future, and the level of protection that each of them need. This will help you choose the appropriate wildcard SSL certificate with the necessary coverage.
  2. Choose a reputable SSL certificate provider
    Selecting a trusted SSL certificate provider is crucial. Look for well-established Certificate Authorities (CAs) with a strong reputation for issuing reliable and widely recognized certificates. Compare prices, features, and customer reviews to make an informed decision.
  3. Generate a Certificate Signing Request (CSR)
    A CSR is a file containing information about your website and organization. It’s required to obtain an SSL certificate. You can refer to your SSL certificate provider’s documentation for instructions on how to generate a CSR specific to your server environment.
  4. Submit the CSR and complete the validation process
    Follow the SSL certificate provider’s instructions to submit your CSR. The provider will verify the information provided in the CSR, such as your domain ownership or organization details for OV certificates. The validation process may involve email verification, domain verification via DNS records, or additional documentation, depending on the certificate type.
  5. Complete the certificate issuance
    Once the validation is complete and approved, the SSL certificate provider will issue your wildcard SSL certificate. You will receive the certificate files, including the primary certificate, the private key, and any intermediate certificates required for proper installation.
  6. Install the wildcard SSL certificate
    Install the certificate files on your web server or reach out to your web hosting provider for support. The installation process will vary depending on your server environment or hosting platform, though the best web hosts will have user-friendly processes, helpful tools, or direct connections with trusted Certificate Authorities (CAs) to make integration easier for you.
  7. Test and verify the SSL installation
    After installing the wildcard SSL certificate, conduct thorough testing to ensure that all your subdomains are properly secured. Use online SSL checkers or browser tools to verify the SSL configuration and check for any potential errors.

 

 

Some Considerations Before Applying For Wildcard SSL Certificates

 

Wildcard SSL certificates offer several advantages that make them a compelling choice for websites with multiple subdomains. However, it’s important to consider the potential limitations they might have. Let’s explore the pros and cons of wildcard SSL certificates:

 

The advantages

 

  • Cost and time efficiency
    One of the key benefits of wildcard SSL certificates is their cost-effectiveness. Instead of purchasing individual certificates for each subdomain, a single wildcard certificate covers all subdomains under the main domain. This results in significant cost savings, as you only need to renew a single certificate.
  • Simplified management
    With a wildcard SSL certificate, you simplify the management of SSL security for your website. You no longer need to track and maintain separate certificates for each subdomain. This reduces administrative overhead and ensures consistent security across all subdomains.
  • Scalability
    Wildcard SSL certificates offer scalability, making them ideal for websites with a dynamic and growing number of subdomains. Whether you plan to add new subdomains in the future or have an existing large number of subdomains, a wildcard certificate can accommodate them all under a single certificate.
  • Enhanced user experience
    By securing all your subdomains with a wildcard SSL certificate, you provide a seamless and secure browsing experience for your visitors. They can navigate through different sections of your website, such as blogs, stores, or forums, with confidence, knowing that their data is encrypted and protected.

 

The disadvantages

 

  • Limited to subdomains
    While wildcard SSL certificates cover an unlimited number of subdomains, they do not secure separate domains. If you have multiple top-level domains that require SSL protection, you will need separate certificates for each domain.
  • Validation level
    Wildcard SSL certificates are typically available at the Domain Validation (DV) and Organization Validation (OV) levels. This means they provide basic validation of domain ownership or organization details. If you require the highest level of validation and trust indicators, such as the green address bar, you may need to opt for an Extended Validation (EV) certificate instead.
  • Security scope
    It’s important to note that wildcard SSL certificates secure all subdomains equally. If a subdomain’s security is compromised, it can potentially impact the security of all other subdomains covered by the wildcard certificate. That being said, regular monitoring and security measures should be in place to mitigate this risk.

 

 

Is A Wildcard SSL Right For Me?

 

Now that we’ve gone over the advantages and disadvantages of wildcard SSL certificates, you might be wondering if it’s the best choice for your website. To help you make an informed decision, let’s compare wildcard SSL certificates with other types of SSLs:

 

SSL Certificate Type Validation Assurance Price Range (per year) Recommended For
Domain Validation (DV) SSL Only domain ownership Basic $0 – $250 Personal blogs, small business websites, non-sensitive information websites
Organization Validation (OV) SSL Domain ownership and organization’s legal existence&operational status Higher $60 – $400 E-commerce websites, financial institutions, healthcare providers
Extended Validation (EV) SSL Domain ownership, organization’s legal&operational status, and extended verification Highest $180 – $1000 Government websites, banking institutions, online payment gateways
Wildcard SSL Domain ownership and multiple subdomains under a domain name Basic to higher $50 – $500 Websites with multiple subdomains under a domain name, such as e-commerce websites and CMS

 

Consider the specific requirements and nature of your website to determine the most suitable SSL certificate type. If you have a large number of subdomains and want a cost-effective solution, a wildcard SSL certificate with domain or organization validation may be the way to go. However, if you require higher levels of validation or need to establish maximum user trust, an extended verification certificate might be more appropriate.

 

 

Shield Your Subdomains With A Wildcard SSL

 

In the ever-evolving landscape of website security, wildcard SSL certificates stand as a powerful tool to safeguard your digital presence. By securing not just your main domain but all its subdomains with a single certificate, wildcard SSL certificates offer a cost-effective and efficient solution.

 

They simplify certificate management, save valuable resources, and enhance the trustworthiness of your website.

 

But before you leap into the world of wildcards, it’s essential to consider whether they’re the right fit for your website. Think about the number of subdomains you have, your budget, and the validation requirements you need.

 

After taking all these factors into account, you’re now ready to go forth and establish a strong digital fortress that instills confidence in every visitor who comes knocking at your virtual door. Stay secure!

 

 

 

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