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Why Are There so Many SSL Certificates that Are Technically the Same?

Monday, April 6th, 2020

SSL certificates are easy to understand on the surface, but when new users start to drill in a little, they’re left with more questions than answers. First, they discover that the SSL acronym is just branding, and the correct technical name is TLS certificates.

SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) is an old cryptographic protocol no longer in use today, but since it was the first encryption technology on the web, the Certificate Authorities have stuck with it.

Then, further research reveals that all SSL certificates, regardless of price, validation type, and features follow the same security protocol. In terms of encryption, an entry-level certificate for a small blog is as efficient as a premium Extended Validation SSL product for a financial institution.

But if the encryption is identical, why so many SSL certificates that are technically the same have a disparity in prices? It’s all about branding and extra features. A glance over SSL Dragon’s list of certificates reveals similar specifications across different brands and validation types, yet the prices differ. The most prominent example is that of Sectigo (formerly Sectigo).

Sectigo SSL Certificates

Sectigo offers the widest range of SSL certs for every need. They even have a special, budget-friendly line of certificates branded “Positive SSL.” You won’t find a single difference between a Sectigo Positive SSL cert and Sectigo Essential SSL one. Both are Domain Validation products with static site seals and $10,000 SSL warranties, so why is one cheaper?

Well, there isn’t any rocket science behind the pricing. Sectigo is one of the most popular CAs in the world with over 3 million customers. The high demand for SSL certificates from websites of all sizes creates opportunities for product and price diversification. Sectigo’s model has been in place for many years, without significant alterations. As long as there’s a large demand, there’s room for flexible prices. Ultimately, it’s all about profits in this instance. The market and competition dictate the pricing policy.

Even so, the example above is more of an exception than a rule. Most SSL providers, including Sectigo, set different prices because of extra SSL features. Take Wildcard certificates for instance. All Wildcard certs secure unlimited subdomains along with the main domain. But when you consider the brand power and the SSL warranty, it’s clear why some certs cost less than others.

Sectigo PositiveSSL Wildcard and Sectigo SSL Wildcard are technically the same certificates, yet the latter is three times more expensive because of higher SSL warranty. For many, the SSL warranty is confusing. We’ve already explained how SSL warranty works in one of our articles. In a nutshell, it covers any damages that may occur from improper issuance of a certificate.

While it’s highly unlikely you’ll use the SSL warranty, as the saying goes, “Never say never.” For companies with a large customer base, every security step is important, especially insurance against potential data breaches. That’s why a cert with a $250,000 warranty is more expensive than a similar one with a $10,000 assurance. The bigger the warranty is, the higher is the price.

Thawte and DigiCert SSL Certificates

With premium brands such as Thawte and DigiCert, you get what may seem exorbitant pricing. DigiCert Secure Site Pro Wildcard also protects unlimited subdomains, just like the cheapest Wildcard cert does, but it costs a whopping $3,899 per year. It may seem pricey, to say the least, but it includes a massive $1,500,000 SSL warranty. For banks, large corporations, and financial institutions, such a certificate is a viable investment.

We selected several certificates from various CAs to show you what dictates the price of products alike.  All SSL certificates may follow the same encryption protocols but not all websites require the same certificate. SSL warranties exist for a reason – to offer companies and visitors additional peace of mind in case of an emergency. The more you pay for insurance, the better coverage you receive.