Certificates expiration


Certificates should expire within about 13 months.

Some time ago I was helping a colleague set up a fake certificate for a development environment. He just thought it better to have the certificate last for a very long time and forget about it (keeping the real certificate up to date is somebody else’s job).

So he eventually settled for 10 years and it seemed to be working.

Except that then another colleague needed to access the same development environment and was getting this error from Chrome:


At first (non-)sight it seemed we had messed up with making the certificate accepted, but then of course we actually read the error and figured that the complaint was not about the chain of trust but on the validity period.

Kudos to us for figuring this out, it’s just literally written in the error and it was a hard fish to catch.

So, as of September 1, 2020, Maximum Lifespan of SSL/TLS Certificates is 398 Days from a practical point of view.

I’m kind of neutral to this type of decision, to be honest. This seems to be somehow at odds with the recent trends that suggest to not change one’s password unless there are real reasons to do so. I understand that these are two different things, but I fail to grasp the reasons why the differences matter with respect to the validity time.

I’ll try to think of a few:

  • Violating a certificate is much more attractive than violating a single password, because of the reach. Making it a moving target might help to limit exposure windows.
  • Changing a certificate usually involves generating a new key by the computer. As long as we trust the randomness source and the algorithms, each key should be as good as any other. On the other hand, humans might tend to settle for increasingly simpler passwords if they are requested to change them frequently

Any pointer to some elaboration would be much appreciated!

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