Understanding Wildcard SSL & How Does a Wildcard Certificate Work?

The digital web has ample security solutions which secure their infrastructure and one such solution comes in the form of digital certificates. They are named SSL/TLS (Secure Socket Layers/Transport Layer Security) certificates.

When a web owner wants to install these digital securities, they approach the Certificate Authorities (CAs), who issue the same after verifying domain name or organisation details (based on SSL certificate selection).

This certificate when installed on the website, secures your site with encryption security. In short, it just transforms the plain text of your site data into cipher text and makes it look like a coded language.

These CAs offer varied types of SSL/TLS certificates and this confuses the web owner as to which one needs to be purchased for securing their web.

It’s simple. The choice of your SSL certificates solely depends on the domains and sub-domains, their count as well as their levels (sub-domains).

So, when your site has many sub-domains, then the best option is to purchase Wildcard SSL certificate for site security.

What is a Wildcard SSL Certificate?

This certificate is termed to be the most budget-friendly certificate because it secures the website’s primary domain and all the 1st level sub-domains. One single Wildcard certificate secures your whole digital business. Amazing, isn’t it? This magnificent and versatile digital certificate encrypts your entire digital infrastructure and secures it from hackers.

You don’t need to install varied certificates for varied sub-domains and this makes this certificate budget-friendly. Apart from cost-friendliness, the process of installing this certificate is quite easy. Since a single certificate is involved in the entire process, it makes the process quick and hassle-free.

One more advantage is that if your sub-domains are present on multiple IP addresses, or servers you can utilize the same Wildcard certificate for securing these sub-domains.

How does Wildcard SSL Certificate Work (For Securing Unlimited Sub-Domains)?

A simple SSL certificate secures the root domain only.

Example of main domain: www.rootdomain.com is the primary domain, but when sub-domains like www.blog.rootdomain.com are involved, this certificate will not secure them.

You will need a Wildcard certificate, because it permits encryption security of 1st level sub-domains along with the root domain.  

Examples of 1st level Sub-domains:

  • article.rootdomain.com
  • blog.rootdomain.com
  • contact.domain.com

The above-stated examples will give a fair idea about the 1st level sub-domains which are secured when this SSL certificate is installed.

But many owners are confused about whether these Wildcard certificates permit encryption security of 2nd level sub-domains or not. No, you need to choose another Wildcard for the same apart from the Wildcard securing 1st level sub-domains.

Examples of 2nd level Sub-domains:

  • Product.article.rootdomain.com
  • Service.blog.rootdomain.com
  • Page.contact.rootdomain.com

Types of Wildcard SSL Certificates:

These certificates are available in 2 validations, i.e., Domain Validation where quick issuance after confirming the domain name, can secure your web, and Organisation Validation where issuance is done in a couple of days after the vetting process. The name of the company will be visible in the details of the certificate.

Limitations of Wildcard SSL Certificates:

  • A major drawback of this certificate is that it’s not available in Extended Validation.
  • This certificate does not secure many primary domains or 2nd level sub-domains.

How Wildcard SSL certificates Work (Setup Process)?

The terminology “wildcard” usually is similar to a symbol or a character. In the case of this certificate, the “*” character is placed before the domain name.

Technically, the setup process of this certificate commences from the CSR (Certificate Signing Request) level.

An (*) is placed before the domain name which indicates that this certificate can add multiple sub-domains.

Example: *.rootdomain.com

But this Wildcard certificate will not cover 2nd level sub-domains as stated above, i.e., this certificate will fail to secure *.article.root domain.com.

This is a very swift and inexpensive way to implement HTTPS (hyper-text transfer protocol secure) on all your sub-domains residing at the 1st level. There is one security lapse that needs to be noted while using Wildcard Certificates.

The process of Wildcard certificates includes a private key which needs to be shared with all the sub-domains present on varied servers. If this certificate key is compromised, or if your domain is invaded by hackers, fake sub-domains can be created and the same can be misused for phishing attacks. Detecting this breach is a tough call for business owners, which impacts their business as well as reputation.

This is the prime reason why Wildcard SSL certificates are not available in extended validation.

Steps after Purchase of a Wildcard SSL Certificate:

  • After you have bought your Wildcard security certificate from a trust-worthy Certificate Authority, a CSR needs to be generated wherein an “*” will be put before the domain name.

Example: *.mysite.com

  • The CA will issue the SSL certificate via e-mail to your stated e-mail address. The certificate will be issued with the common name which is mentioned in the CSR, and it will quickly secure all 1st level sub-domains.

To have a better idea you should follow step by step installation process of wildcard certificates.

Whom to Approach?

I have been receiving many questions as to which CA to approach for the purchase of SSL certificates since there are many certificate providers in the digital market. Many web owners are unaware of which CA or reseller is more reliable for securing their web. 

As I end this article, I would like to give one additional tip on which SSL provider is the most preferred and reliable amongst the rest.

CheapSSLShop is my favorite SSL certificate provider because apart from offering the cheapest Wildcard SSL certificates, there are other benefits too. It’s budget-friendly rates, money-back offers, warranties, strong encryption security, good customer service for query resolve are some added benefits of this SSL certificate provider.

Wrapping Up:

If your website comprises multiple domains apart from multiple sub-domains, then you need a Multi-Domain Wildcard SSL certificate to secure them.

So, what are you waiting for? Go grab your digital certificate and secure your digital business.

Author: Dyka Smith

Dyka Smith is a content marketing professional at Inosocial, an inbound marketing and sales platform that helps companies attract visitors, convert leads, and close customers. Previously, Dyka worked as a marketing manager for a tech software startup. She graduated with honors from Columbia University with a dual degree in Business Administration and Creative Writing.

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