Missed renewal triggers three-hour service outage
Yesterday morning (8:30 AM ET, 02/03/2019), users of Microsoft Teams, a popular enterprise collaboration platform, found themselves unable to access their Teams applications. A Tweet from Microsoft confirmed that the service was down, and a follow-up message explained that the reason for the outage was an expired authentication certificate. Microsoft promised to swiftly install a new certificate and remedy the situation.
Microsoft’s Tweet confirming the cause of the issue
In response, Twitter erupted in a storm of memes – most of them humorous – urging the software giant to hurry up and fix the problem. Some users expressed their frustration with Microsoft, as they watched their coworkers struggle with deadlines and deliverables – and even talked about switching to Slack, Microsoft Teams’ main competitor. Several users questioned why Microsoft doesn’t yet have a solution that would automatically keep track of certificates to prevent something like this from happening in the first place.
Last November, Microsoft announced that the number of Teams’ daily users has reached 20 million. A month earlier, Microsoft’s CEO said that more than 350 organizations that have at least 10,000 employees are actively using the application. That’s a lot of users who suddenly found themselves unable to place calls, initiate chats, join meetings, edit documents, or open files – collaboration tasks that are absolutely essential to running a modern workplace.
Granted, things like this do happen. Most businesses occasionally suffer from service outages, embarrassing errors, and missteps. They usually blow over in a day or two, make for a fun Twitter feed, and perhaps give competitors’ stocks a temporary boost.
But Microsoft isn’t just any company, and security certificate issues are not errors that can be shrugged off. With millions of users depending on their applications, Microsoft should have been more self-aware about the health and status of their active certificates.
Microsoft will likely issue an apology and will blame the expired certificate on human error. We don’t know if Microsoft is relying on spreadsheets or other manual processes to track their certificates, but at AppViewX, we’re absolutely certain that if they had been using an automated certificate management system, this outage likely wouldn’t have happened.
Outages are preventable – here’s how:
Experts from leading research and advisory firms recommend that network teams responsible for application security should look into implementing full lifecycle management tools for their certificates and keys. These tools help identify and prevent potential risks of certificate expiry, and drive intelligent automation when dealing with complex enterprise certificate environments.
AppViewX CERT+ is a certificate management solution that provides end-to-end automation of key and certificate lifecycles across multi-cloud environments. Teams get full visibility and control over certificate infrastructures, which helps prevent outages caused by expired or vulnerable TLS / SSL certificates. We also help protect keys, ensure compliance, and allow for role-based self-servicing of PKI.
For companies who haven’t thought about automating their certificate management, or those who believe that their current manual processes are sufficient ‘for now’, consider what happened to Microsoft on Monday morning. We hope that Microsoft will carefully review and analyze what happened and take the necessary steps to fix it in the future. One way to prevent a certificate expiry from wreaking havoc on your business is to automate certificate management and set up a streamlined and efficient system for certificate management – that way, every certificate gets renewed well before it expires. The AppViewX platform provides everything one would need to achieve that.
Not convinced? Drop by our website and register for a personalized CERT+ product tour – we’ll show you exactly how investing in AppViewX will transform the way your teams handle certificates, keys, and PKI.