5 SSL issues to avoid and how to fix them

Https url address and lock symbol during SSL connection
(Image credit: Shutterstock/Marc Bruxelle)

SSL, or Secure Sockets Layer, is a protocol that provides secure communications between two devices. It is most commonly used in website transactions, such as when a customer is entering their credit card information to make a purchase. 

For SSL to work, a valid SSL certificate must be installed on the server. Depending on the type of certificate, it may be issued by a Certificate Authority (CA) or self-signed. 

While SSL is an important security measure, there are certain SSL issues that can arise if not properly configured. Below are five of the most common SSL issues and how to avoid them.

1. Faulty installation

Faulty installation is one of the most common SSL issues. It can happen for a variety of reasons, such as incorrect server configuration or an outdated root certificate. In some cases, it can even be caused by malware on the server. Whatever the cause, faulty installation can lead to serious security vulnerabilities. 

One way to avoid faulty installation is to use a reputable SSL provider. A good provider will offer comprehensive installation instructions that are easy to follow. They will also provide 24/7 customer support in case you run into any problems. 

Another way to avoid faulty installation is to keep your server software up to date. This will help ensure that your SSL certificates are always valid and that your server is configured correctly. 

http url

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

2. HTTPS redirects

HTTPS is the secure version of HTTP, the protocol that powers the vast majority of web traffic. When you visit a website over HTTPS, your connection to that site is encrypted, making it much more difficult for attackers to snoop on your traffic or interfere with your connection. Many websites have embraced HTTPS in recent years in an effort to improve security and privacy for their users.

However, HTTPS redirects can sometimes cause problems. If a website redirects from HTTP to HTTPS but doesn't properly handle all of the necessary details, it can lead to insecure connections or broken pages. As a result, it's important to be aware of the potential issues that can arise from HTTPS redirects and take steps to avoid them.

Broken pages and insecure connections

One of the most common problems with HTTPS redirects is that they can break pages or result in insecure connections. This usually happens when a website redirects from HTTP to HTTPS but doesn't properly handle all of the necessary details. For example, if a website includes resources like images or JavaScript files that are still served over HTTP, those resources will not be loaded when the page is accessed over HTTPS. This can break the page or prevent it from loading entirely. Additionally, if a website's SSL certificate is not properly configured, visitors may see warnings from their browser about insecure connections.

To avoid these problems, make sure that all resources on your website are served over HTTPS. This includes not only HTML pages but also any images, JavaScript files, stylesheets, etc. Additionally, make sure that your SSL certificate is properly configured before enabling HTTPS on your site. You can use a tool like Qualys SSL Labs to test your site's SSL configuration and identify any potential issues.

Mixed content warnings

Another common problem with HTTPS redirects is mixed content warnings from browsers. Mixed content occurs when a page that is loaded over HTTPS includes resources that are served over HTTP. For example, if an HTML page on a website is loaded over HTTPS but includes images that are loaded over HTTP, those images will be considered mixed content. 

Mixed content warnings happen because browsers cannot verify the authenticity or integrity of mixed content resources. As a result, they display warnings to users in an effort to prevent them from loading those resources. These warnings can vary depending on the browser; some browsers will block mixed content by default while others will only display a warning message. 

To avoid mixed content warnings, make sure that all resources on your website are served over HTTPS. If you're not sure whether a resource is being served over HTTP or HTTPS, you can check using your browser's developer tools; most browsers will display an icon next to each resource indicating its protocol (HTTP or HTTPS). Alternatively, you can use a tool like Mozilla's Observatory to scan your website for mixed content and other potential security issues.

3. Expiration and renewal errors

One of the most common SSL issues is an expiration or renewal error. When an SSL certificate expires, it needs to be renewed in order for the secure connection to remain valid. If the certificate is not renewed, any data that is exchanged over the connection is at risk of being intercepted by third parties. To avoid this issue, make sure to set up email alerts so that you are notified well in advance of the expiration date. You should also have a plan in place for renewing the certificate so that there is no lapse in coverage.

Invalid or incomplete certificate chain

Another common SSL issue is an invalid or incomplete certificate chain. A certificate chain consists of the server's SSL certificate, as well as any intermediate certificates that are used to sign it. In order for the chain to be valid, all of the certificates must be signed by a trusted root authority and none of them can be expired or revoked. To avoid this issue, make sure to check the validity of all certificates in the chain before installing them. You can use a tool like Certificate Inspector (https://sslmate.com/) to do this automatically. 

Revoked certificates

A revoked certificate is one that has been invalidated by the issuing authority. This can happen for a variety of reasons, such as if the private key associated with the certificate has been compromised. If you try to connect to a site using a revoked certificate, you will receive an error message telling you that the certificate has been revoked. To avoid this issue, make sure to check for revocation before connecting to any site using SSL. Use a tool like SSLLabs (https://www.ssllabs.com/ssltest/).

4. Missing host name

A "missing host name" error means that the domain specified in the SSL certificate does not match the domain where the certificate is being used. This can occur for a variety of reasons, but typically it's because the certificate was issued for a different domain than the one it's being used for currently. An example of this is if your site is hosted at www.example.com, but your certificate was issued for www.example.net, you would get this error. 

The best way to avoid missing host name errors is to ensure that your SSL certificate matches the domain where it will be used. If you're not sure which domain your site will be hosted at, you can generate a certificate with multiple domains (known as a Subject Alternative Names or SANs certificate). That way, if your site ends up being hosted at a different domain than what you originally thought, you won't need to worry about getting a new certificate - the SANs certificate will cover it. 

5, Insecure signature algorithm

An insecure signature algorithm is a flaw that can occur in the SSL protocol that allows for eavesdropping on communications. This issue arises when the signature algorithm used to sign the data being transmitted is not strong enough. As a result, it is possible for someone to intercept the data and read it without being detected. 

Fortunately, there are a few steps you can take to ensure that you are not using an insecure signature algorithm. First, make sure that you are using TLS 1.2 or higher. TLS 1.2 is the most recent version of the SSL protocol and contains a number of security improvements over previous versions. If you are using an older version of TLS, upgrade to TLS 1.2 as soon as possible. 

Second, make sure that you are using only strong cryptographic algorithms. Strong cryptographic algorithms are those that have been vetted by cryptographers and have proven to be resistant to attack. Some examples of strong cryptographic algorithms include AES-256 and RSA-2048. 

Finally, keep your software up to date. Newer versions of software often contain security fixes for known vulnerabilities, so it's important to install updates as soon as they become available. By following these steps, you can help protect your communications from being eavesdropped on by third parties. 

What is an SSL certificate error?

An SSL certificate error occurs when your browser has trouble verifying the legitimacy of the website you're trying to visit. The error usually appears in the form of a warning message that says something like "The site you're trying to visit is not secure" or "This connection is not private." In some cases, you may even see a message saying that the website's security certificate has expired.

When you see one of these messages, it means that your browser could not verify that the website is what it claims to be.

How do I fix a SSL error?

The first step is to figure out what type of SSL error you're seeing. 

Check your network connection: Make sure that your computer is connected to the internet and that there are no problems with your network connection. 

Check your browser settings: Some browsers have strict security settings that can cause connection errors. Try changing your browser's security settings to see if that fixes the problem. 

Clear your browser cache: Sometimes cached data can cause problems with web connections. Try clearing your browser cache and cookies and see if that fixes the problem. 

Contact your ISP: If you're still seeing errors, then there may be a problem with your ISP's servers or network infrastructure. Contact your ISP and let them know about the problem so they can investigate further. 

Ruby has been a freelance technology writer for over four years and has a passion for information technology and the Internet in its entirety. She has a wide range of specialities including web hosting, streaming (Firestick, Kodi, and APKs), VPN, information technology, and affiliate marketing. Ruby is a graduate of Bachelor of Science in Commerce from the University of the Philippines, and regularly codes in her free time.