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Web Security, Privacy & Commerce, 2nd Edition by Gene Spafford, Simson Garfinkel

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When Things Go Wrong

When a web browser makes a connection to an SSL web server, it checks on a number of the fields in the server’s X.509 v3 certificates. If the contents of a field don’t match what the web browser expects, it can alert the user or disallow the connection.

This section summarizes some of the problems that can befall even the most well-intentioned site administrators.

Not Yet Valid and Expired Certificates

When a web browser opens an SSL connection to a server, it checks the dates on the certificates that the server presents to make sure that they are valid. If the certificate has expired (or if the client’s clock and calendar are not properly set), it will alert the user. Some programs that use SSL simply inform the user that a certificate has expired (or is not yet valid) and give the user the option to continue. Other programs do not give the user the option.

If the date on the certificate looks valid, then it is possible the date on the user’s computer is wrong—for example, the clocks of many desktop computers will reset to 1980 if their internal battery dies. If you can’t figure out why a certificate is out of date, check your computer’s clock.

Certificate Renewal

Like most other identification documents, X.509 v3 certificates expire. When they expire, you need to get new ones if you wish to continue to offer X.509 v3-based services. In many cases, you can simply request that a new certificate be issued for your existing public key.

The authority that issues the ...

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