“Digital certificates play a crucial role in protecting the confidentiality and integrity of information exchanged between an organization and its customers, employees, suppliers, and other stakeholders. A certificate serves as digital proof of identity and is the underpinning for many modern security controls.”
-The IDC Vendor Spotlight (The Underappreciated Virtues of a Comprehensive Certificate Management Strategy)
Machine identities lie at the core of cybersecurity
Machine identities in the form of digital certificates serve as security gatekeepers in a world brimming with cloud applications, VMs, containers, IoT, and cyber-physical systems. They help build individual security perimeters around every entity on the network and protect them from various types of attacks wherever they are. Now that organizations are going full throttle at digitization, there is a continuous stream of physical and virtual devices that are increasingly interconnected. The only reliable and secure way to protect this growing ecosystem of machines in a perimeter-less environment is to use digital certificates.
The IDC Vendor Spotlight, on “The Underappreciated Virtues of a Comprehensive Certificate Management Strategy,” sponsored by AppViewX offers deep insights into:
- some of the challenges that organizations face in managing certificates lifecycles
- the urgent need for a unified certificate lifecycle management strategy, and
- the advantages of a cloud-first approach to CLM.
Here’s a quick synopsis of the IDC Vendor Spotlight
Although there is a good amount of awareness about digital certificates and their strategic importance in cybersecurity, many organizations still struggle with certificate management issues. The IDC Vendor Spotlight highlights some of the most common issues that organizations face in CLM.
Certificate lifecycle management headaches:
- Certificate management complexities in cloud environments: Organizations operating in the cloud typically have a mix of multiple public clouds. Monitoring and managing certificates distributed across these disparate, dynamic environments is a complex task. The Key management tools provided by public cloud providers are of little help as they do not lend visibility of certificates across other cloud environments. The fragmented visibility and decentralized management often lead to weak links such as undocumented, rogue, and expired certificates.
- Non-trusted certificates: Given the huge network infrastructures, the average number of certificates organizations use today easily runs into tens of thousands. As the process of procuring certificates from trusted certificate authorities (CAs) is long-drawn, organizations sometimes resort to procuring free domain validated (DV) certificates from non-profit agencies, which are usually untrusted.
- Configuration errors: As organizations still manage certificate lifecycles manually, there is a high possibility of human error in certificate configurations. A simple error such as providing the wrong IP or domain name while producing a certificate can quickly snowball into a major security blunder.
- Lack of crypto-agility: Crypto standards such as protocols and algorithms are often updated to stay ahead of hackers and their attack techniques. Organizations need to quickly switch to newer standards to avoid the risk of getting hacked. Unfortunately, when manual processes are employed, the possibility of being crypto agile is nil.
What should organizations do?
Manual processes are, by nature, inefficient, and that’s a no-brainer. There will always be adverse consequences, and that’s obvious too. But when it comes to certificate lifecycle management, these consequences can be disastrous and irrecoverable.
This is why organizations must move to a unified central certificate management program, which is purpose-built to meet the new-age CLM requirements. A unified CLM solution provides:
- complete visibility of the digital certificate landscape
- centralized management in cloud environments
- end-to-end automation of the entire certificate lifecycle
- third-party integrations for seamless management
- consistent policy enforcement and granular control
How CLM as a Service can help
To further simplify certificate management in hybrid and distributed environments, CLM is now being packaged into a SaaS solution. The as-a-service model brings several advantages to certificate management since it is:
- instantly scalable to a large volume of certificates
- ready to consume, which means there is no need for provisioning servers and software
- simple and secure to manage and operate
Source: IDC Vendor Spotlight, sponsored by AppViewX, TheUnderappreciated Virtues of a Comprehensive Certificate Management Strategy, doc #US48317321, October 2021
To help make an informed choice, the IDC Vendor Spotlight also outlines some of the key considerations that organizations must factor in while choosing a CLMaaS solution.
- Extensive support for SSH key management
- Continuous monitoring and dynamic discovery to ensure complete visibility even during network changes or upgrades
- Integration with other key and certificate management platforms such as on-premise and cloud PKI
- Integration with containerized environments
- Centralized certificate management
The IDC verdict
Finally, IDC effectively sums up the importance of digital certificates with the “confidentiality, integrity, and availability” triad. Digital certificates can help organizations successfully realize this cybersecurity triad by establishing secure channels of communication for assets, regardless of their location, and providing security for data both at rest and in transit.
Cybercrime is a common issue that organizations have been battling for decades. Except, in 2021, it is a global concern, and the magnitude at which it is impacting organizations is anything unlike before. Rapid technology adoption is great for business, but it comes with several security challenges. Overcoming these challenges takes a rethink of current security approaches, which is why it is important for organizations to engage with machine identities from a cybersecurity perspective.