Invalid certificate chain encountered during redirection

Febna V M
Published on
16 Apr 2024
6 min read

“Invalid certificate chain encountered during redirection” typically indicates a problem with the SSL/TLS certificate chain when a web server is trying to redirect a user to a secure (HTTPS) connection.

There are two types of certificate authorities (CA):

  • Root

  • Intermediate

Certificates are typically issued by a trusted certificate authority. If a certificate isn’t from a trusted CA, the connecting device, like a web browser, verifies the source of the CA’s certification.

The browser will check until a trust CA is found. If not found, the connecting device will show an error. The list from root CA to the end- user certificate is called a chain.

When the whole chain consists of untrusted certificates, it is known as the invalid certificate chain. This will also affect the redirection to HTTPS as well.

What causes an invalid certificate chain encountered during redirection

Encountering an invalid certificate chain during redirection can disrupt secure communication between a client device, such as a web browser, and a server.

This error occurs when the certificates presented during the redirection process are unable to be validated according to established trust criteria. Several factors can contribute to this issue which includes:

  • Misconfiguration or mismatch between certificates in the chain: It leads to failure in the validation process.

  • Certificates are expired/ revoked: This makes them invalid for authentication.

  • Man-in the- Middle attacks: Interception or manipulation of network traffic by a malicious actor.

  • Client configuration issues: Misconfigurations on the client side, such as outdated certificate stores or incorrect certificate validation settings

What are the impacts of invalid certificate chain?

Encountering an “Invalid certificate chain” error during redirection can have several significant impacts, both for website owners and visitors:

1. Security concerns

The most immediate concern is the potential compromise of security. Invalid certificate chains may indicate that the SSL/TLS encryption is not functioning correctly.

This can lead to data interception and unauthorized access, putting sensitive information at risk.

2. Loss of trust

Visitors to your website may lose trust in your site due to security warnings. Browsers often display scary warnings about invalid certificates, which can deter users from proceeding to your site.

3. Reduced user engagement

Users who encounter SSL/TLS certificate errors are more likely to abandon your website, leading to decreased engagement and potential loss of business.

4. Impact on SEO

Search engines consider the security of websites when ranking them in search results. An invalid certificate chain can negatively affect your SEO ranking.

5. Brand reputation damage

Frequent SSL/TLS errors can damage your brand’s online reputation. Users may associate your site with security problems, which can be difficult to recover from.

6. Loss of confidentiality

If your website deals with sensitive information such as customer data or financial transactions, an invalid certificate chain can result in data leaks and breaches.

Depending on your industry and location, there may be legal and compliance requirements for maintaining proper SSL/TLS encryption. Failure to do so could result in legal consequences and fines.

8. Customer support overhead

Dealing with customer complaints and inquiries related to security errors can place an additional burden on your customer support team.

9. Operational disruption

If your website experiences frequent SSL/TLS errors, it may disrupt normal business operations and require immediate attention to resolve.

10. Financial implications

Addressing SSL/TLS certificate errors may require the purchase of new certificates or investing in IT support to rectify configuration issues, incurring additional costs.

How can you prevent invalid certificate chain?

Preventing an “Invalid certificate chain encountered during redirection” error requires careful configuration and maintenance of your SSL/TLS certificates and web server.

1. Choose a reputable Certificate Authority (CA)

Ensure you obtain your SSL/TLS certificate from a trusted and well-known CA. This reduces the likelihood of certificate chain issues.

2. Keep certificates up to date

Regularly renew and replace SSL/TLS certificates before they expire. Most CAs provide reminders well in advance of expiration dates.

3. Check certificate chain

When installing or updating certificates, verify that the certificate chain is complete and properly configured.

It should include the server certificate, intermediate certificates, and the root certificate.

4. Use an SSL/TLS certificate management tool

Employ certificate management tools or services to help automate the process of acquiring, renewing, and managing certificates.

These tools often include alerts and reminders for certificate expirations.

5. Regularly test SSL/TLS configuration

Conduct regular security audits and testing, such as using SSL/TLS scanners or tools, to identify and address configuration issues before they become critical.

6. Enable HSTS (HTTP Strict Transport Security)

Implement HSTS headers to enforce secure connections and reduce the risk of inadvertent HTTP to HTTPS redirection issues.

7. Implement proper 301 redirects

Ensure that any redirection from HTTP to HTTPS is configured correctly in your web server settings to prevent interruptions in the SSL/TLS handshake.

8. Regularly update web server software

Keep your web server software (e.g., Apache, Nginx) and related components up to date to benefit from security patches and updates.

9. Certificate expiration and revocation status

Set up monitoring to check the expiration and revocation status of certificates. Some tools can automatically renew certificates when needed.

10. Implement proper error handling

Customize error pages for SSL/TLS certificate-related errors to provide users with clear instructions on how to proceed or contact support.

By managing and maintaining your SSL/TLS certificates and staying vigilant about security best practices, you can significantly reduce the risk of encountering an “Invalid certificate chain” error during redirection and enhance the security and trustworthiness of your website.

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Written by
Febna V M
Febna V M
Cyber Security Engineer
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