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Cert Spotter - Certificate Transparency Monitor

Cert Spotter is a Certificate Transparency log monitor from SSLMate that alerts you when an SSL/TLS certificate is issued for one of your domains. Cert Spotter is easier to use than other open source CT monitors, since it does not require a database. It's also more robust, since it uses a special certificate parser that ensures it won't miss certificates.

Cert Spotter is also available as a hosted service by SSLMate that requires zero setup and provides an easy web dashboard to centrally manage your certificates. Visit to sign up.

You can use Cert Spotter to detect:

  • Certificates issued to attackers who have compromised your DNS and are redirecting your visitors to their malicious site.
  • Certificates issued to attackers who have taken over an abandoned sub-domain in order to serve malware under your name.
  • Certificates issued to attackers who have compromised a certificate authority and want to impersonate your site.
  • Certificates issued in violation of your corporate policy or outside of your centralized certificate procurement process.


Cert Spotter requires Go version 1.19 or higher.

  1. Install the certspotter command using the go command:

    go install
  2. Create a watch list file $HOME/.certspotter/watchlist containing the DNS names you want to monitor, one per line. To monitor an entire domain tree (including the domain itself and all sub-domains) prefix the domain name with a dot (e.g. To monitor a single DNS name only, do not prefix the name with a dot.

  3. Place one or more email addresses in the $HOME/.certspotter/email_recipients file (one per line), and/or place one or more executable scripts in the $HOME/.certspotter/hooks.d directory. certspotter will email the listed addresses (requires your system to have a working sendmail command) and execute the provided scripts when it detects a certificate for a domain on your watch list.

  4. Configure your system to run certspotter as a daemon. You may want to specify the -start_at_end command line option to tell certspotter to start monitoring new logs at the end instead of the beginning. This saves significant bandwidth, but you won't be notified about certificates which were logged before you started using certspotter.


What certificates are detected by Cert Spotter?

In the default configuration, any certificate that is logged to a Certificate Transparency log recognized by Google Chrome or Apple will be detected by Cert Spotter. By default, Google Chrome and Apple only accept certificates that are logged, so any certificate that works in Chrome or Safari will be detected by Cert Spotter.


Cert Spotter assumes an adversarial model in which an attacker produces a certificate that is accepted by at least some clients but goes undetected because of an encoding error that prevents CT monitors from understanding it. To defend against this attack, Cert Spotter uses a special certificate parser that keeps the certificate unparsed except for the identifiers. If one of the identifiers matches a domain on your watchlist, you will be notified, even if other parts of the certificate are unparsable.

Cert Spotter takes special precautions to ensure identifiers are parsed correctly, and implements defenses against identifier-based attacks. For instance, if a DNS identifier contains a null byte, Cert Spotter interprets it as two identifiers: the complete identifier, and the identifier formed by truncating at the first null byte. For example, a certificate for\ will alert the owners of both and This defends against null prefix attacks.

SSLMate continuously monitors CT logs to make sure every certificate's identifiers can be successfully parsed, and will release updates to Cert Spotter as necessary to fix parsing failures.

Cert Spotter understands wildcard DNS names, and will alert you if a wildcard certificate might match an identifier on your watchlist. For example, a watchlist entry for would match certificates for *

Cert Spotter is not just a log monitor, but also a log auditor which checks that the log is obeying its append-only property. A future release of Cert Spotter will support gossiping with other log monitors to ensure the log is presenting a single view.


Copyright © 2016-2023 Opsmate, Inc.

Licensed under the Mozilla Public License Version 2.0.