Public key infrastructure (PKI) is the fulcrum that holds the security of the digital communication within an enterprise, like the Internet or the Intranet. It promotes confidentiality and authentication for safeguarding digital communications from unauthorized access. One of the most common means for securing communication is X.509 certificates, which organizations employ across the network infrastructure to protect the data of their clients and employees, enable server-client authentication over HTTPS protocol, and digitally sign offline applications.
Digital certificates, like X.509 certificates help authenticate and establish the identity of the users and the machines. With the explosion of cloud adoptions, IoT devices, and BYOD, certificate management has become more challenging than ever. X.509 certificate contains a public key and an identity, which can be the name of the organization or a host. When a certificate is issued and signed by a certificate authority (CA), someone holding that certificate can trust the public key it contains for establishing secure communication.
Dangers of Managing X.509 Certificates Manually
Manually updating X.509 certificates is not only difficult but also prone to human errors. Even one expired or misconfigured certificate is enough to cause outage and system downtime, thus giving the opportunity to cybercriminals to invade your corporate network, for instance, Equifax and Marriott data breaches.
Outages due to missed certificate expiry: Even tech giants, like Google, are not immune to unexpected outages caused due to expired certificates. For an administrator managing PKI for a business organization, it is nothing less than a nightmare to track every individual certificate with innumerable variables, like varying expiration dates, multiple certificate authorities, and unique system vulnerabilities.
Most organizations lack holistic visibility into their certificates, like the number of certificates, purpose, and date of issuance, locations, owners, and associated applications. If you are manually updating certificates, you have to trust solely on the spreadsheets, which don’t get updated automatically. Any misinformation on the spreadsheets can lead to faulty security decisions and consequent damages.
Incurring additional costs: Manually updating certificates will increase overhead costs, and even the slightest crack in the security defense is adequate to incur heavy business and reputation loss, not to forget the heavy ransom amounts the organizations end up paying to retrieve data in case of a massive ransomware attack.
Why You Need to Automate Certificate Lifecycle Management (CLM)
While orchestrating a certificate management system, a PKI administrator has to perform all the processes involved between issuing a certificate and certificate expiry. The various stages of the certificate lifecycle include issuance, provisioning, discovery, inventory, monitoring, security, renewal and revocation. Implementing an automated solution, which can become a centralized console for managing all the certificates across the organization, is crucial for a number of reasons.
An automated certificate management tool can help you build an inventory for discovering certificates across all devices within the network, regardless of the certificate authority (CA) and device type. To keep rogue certificates at bay, it is crucial to keep inventory updated and schedule periodic scans.
Prevent outages and reduce overhead costs: With minimal training, anyone can translate their business-use cases into easy-to-use automation workflows for orchestrating the entire certificate lifecycle management. All certificate processes like monitoring, renewal, and provisioning can be automated, eliminating the need to assign dedicated resources.
Renewing certificates well in time, fixing certificate issues as soon as they appear, and eliminating human intervention can help you prevent sudden network outages
DevOps security: Automating certificate lifecycle operations is crucial for faster certificate deployments. It provides DevOps with a single-pane-of-glass interface that allows them to request and install certificates right from the CI/CD pipeline instead of raising requests from individual ticketing systems or email. Using simple, pre-defined, visual workflows, DevOps can automate all certificate lifecycle processes, thus curtailing the time needed to generate and provision certificates in the DevOps environment.
Reduce risk: Frequent monitoring and real-time reporting allow security professionals to keep certificate infrastructures on surveillance and instantly identify any PKI misuse or certificate renewal. With dynamic reporting tools, administrators can get a 360° visibility into the certificate infrastructure and provision/revoke certificates seamlessly, without having to engage with individual certificate authorities or vendors.
Improve audit and compliance: Complete and automated logging of all the digital certificates and configuration changes allow organizations to ensure seamless internal and external audits, required to meet prescribed industry compliance standards.