Failure to renew security certificate fells Conservative website

Written by Sam Trendall on 8 January 2018 in News
News

Party makes IT gaffe on day of major reshuffle

Credit: Mozilla Firefox

On the day of a major cabinet reshuffle, a failure to keep its security certificates up to date left the Conservative website out of action for hours.

Up until a little after 11.30am this morning, attempts to visit the party’s website prompted a web-browser error message, warning users that their connection was ‘not secure’, or ‘not private’. Details provided by Mozilla Firefox (pictured) revealed that the site’s secure sockets layer (SSL) security certificate expired at midnight last night. 

In recent weeks certification authorities should have sent the party at least five warning notices and prompts to renew, 30, 15, 7, 3, and 1 day before the certificate expired. These notices were seemingly ignored before the certificate was allowed to run out.


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The site now appears to be back up and running, but not before the IT oversight had garnered a large amount of media coverage, as well as criticism and mockery on social media.

SSL certificates are used to provide an encrypted connection between web servers and internet browsers. The SSL protocol encrypts data that is typically comprised of plain text. This ensures that potentially sensitive information can be safely relayed between a website and the browser it is running on. 

There is a degree of irony in the fact that the Conservative's website woes have been caused by a lack of encryption, after home secretary Amber Rudd last year vowed to "combat" what she characterised as the helpful environment the technology provides for criminals - despite admitting that she did not understand how it works.

The lapsed security certificate is not the only online faux pas made by the party today, after the @Conservatives Twitter account wrongly announced that transport secretary Chris Grayling had been appointed as party chairman, in a tweet that was swiftly deleted. Immigration minister Brandon Lewis has subsequently been unveiled as the new party chairman.

PublicTechnology had contacted the Conservative Party requesting comment on the website problems and was awaiting response at time of publication. 

 

About the author

Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology

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