The Core Principles of Certificate Lifecycle Management

Are you a victim of improper management of your digital identities? 

Know the core principles of a robust certificate lifecycle management solution

The enterprise IT landscape is growing increasingly hybrid and distributed. Data and applications are no longer limited to the data center. They now reside in multiple cloud platforms. On the other hand, there is a massive influx of IoT, mobile devices, and endpoints into the corporate network. Securing this exploding digital environment is a top priority for enterprises today.  

Digital certificates are identities that help digital applications and devices authenticate themselves and securely communicate with each other. However, the sheer volume of certificates that enterprises use and manage today and their distribution across various environments have complicated certificate management, which has, in turn, created significant challenges in securing these digital certificates. 

Certificate management in today’s distributed IT environment is easier said than done. Is your certificate lifecycle management (CLM) solution keeping up? 

Missed certificate expirations, rogue certificates, frequent network outages, and increasing security vulnerabilities are signs of a failing CLM. Moreover, a failing CLM is a cybersecurity problem in the making.  

If your organization is struggling with the same issues, then it is time you fixed your CLM.

The Core Principles of Certificate Lifecycle Management 

Smart Discovery

It would help if you had a tool that discovers certificates from various devices and applications across hybrid-cloud or multicloud environments. Information such as locations, associated applications, expiry dates, signatures, etc., should be automatically captured. Users should have the ability to schedule periodic discoveries to keep inventory updated with new information on undocumented and rogue certificates. 

Employ a comprehensive tool that runs complete, top-down scans across your entire network to discover every certificate. These scans need to run at periodic intervals for a healthy inventory free from undocumented certificates. 

Maintain an Inventory

Post discovery, you need to consolidate the scan results in a database to draw meaningful insights. Ideally, the scanning tool should automatically create an inventory of its findings in a  structured database with complete details of every certificate discovered – name, expiration date,  encryption strength, key strength, the endpoint’s network, location, and so on. 

Once this is done, group certificates based on certificate authority (CA) or location to ease the process of renewals and revocations when the time comes.  Your inventory should also give you a lateral view of your infrastructure – you should be able to verify the chain of trust quickly.

Cryptographic and Business Policies

Your certificate lifecycle management should allow administrators to define and enforce various policies for teams to adhere to appropriate cryptographic policies for digital keys and certificates. These policies help enhance the overall security posture of an organization. 

Control Your Certificates Before They Go Rogue!

Enforce an Ownership Hierarchy

The main objective is to structure the certificate enrolment process and ensure that only authorized people can make permanent changes to the certificate infrastructure. Establish well-defined roles in the public key infrastructure (PKI) management team with an ownership hierarchy. Each level in the hierarchy should be a part of an approval chain that allows the delegation and validation of ownership.

Enforce strict policies for using and generating certificates and keys – such as recommended cryptographic techniques, hashing algorithms, key lengths, CAs, and workflows – consistently across the infrastructure to validate and eliminate non-compliant certificates. Only authorized personnel should mandatorily approve network-level changes.

Simplify the process of adding new certificate owners by allowing existing owners to transfer the ownership before changing positions or moving out of the company or by assigning ownership for the entire certificate group. 

It is crucial to create an audit trail system that logs every action taken by stakeholders in the hierarchy, along with a timestamp. 

Alerting, Reporting, and Logging

Invest in a tool with built-in alerts for various events like upcoming certificate expiry. These alerts should be quickly delivered via emails for manual actions or simple network management protocol (SNMP) traps for automation. 

A single round of discovery is not sufficient in an ever-changing certificate environment.  Update your inventory details every time you run a network scan. Ensure that you keep tabs on the status of all your PKI components at all times. While this might seem impossible with the sheer number of certificates and devices involved, creating a simple dashboard makes the process a whole lot simpler.  

Create a business-intelligence style control panel with graphical reports on key statistics. For dynamic reports that reflect changes in real-time, the system generating reports should seamlessly integrate with your certificate environment. Reports should be customized to cater to the needs of every member of the PKI management value chain.  

End-to-End Automation

Finally, your certificate lifecycle management tool should automate the entire business process from issuing/renewal of certificates to provisioning/binding of certificates to the application using the certificate. This automation will not just save time and effort but will avoid manual errors as well as potential compromises. 

AppViewX CERT+ simplifies PKI and certificate management operations to bring agility in teams to focus on business innovation and growth. CERT+ becomes the single and centralized console for managing all certificates across the organization. It also becomes the central place for automating all the business processes related to PKI to avoid manual errors.

Do you want to manage your machine identities better?

Tags

  • certificate lifecycle management
  • Certificate Management
  • SSL Certificate Lifecycle Management

About the Author

Sanchita Chakraborti

Director, Product Marketing – AppViewX CERT+

Sanchita is a Product Marketer responsible for understanding the industry landscape, buyer personas, their pain points and translating them into compelling value propositions and messaging.

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