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What is Certificate Scanning?

Certificate scanning involves discovering all the certificates that are installed across various endpoints in an organization’s network. Every scan records key details of certificates like their locations, health, types, days to expiry, positions in the chain of trust, etc. They provide insights into the security map of network infrastructure and help detect significant flaws.

2022 Ponemon Report: The State of Certificate Lifecycle Management in Global Organizations

Large organizations often have several departments across multiple geographies, with each team requesting certificates based on individual requirements. This leads to many certificates going undocumented and being present in remote locations on the network, with many of them being labeled ‘rogue’ (unapproved).

By detecting every certificate and determining where it is located (on a firewall, attached to a browser, and so on), you’ll ensure that you’re not missing anything when you attempt bulk renewals or revocations. You can also ensure that each one is well managed since even one vulnerable certificate serves as a weak link that malicious actors can exploit.

However, some certificate detection tools and CA-provided software are limited to only detecting the certificates issued by that particular CA or certificates of certain types. This is important: A universal scanning tool that discovers both CA-issued and in-house certificates across all networks, cloud environments, and hardware locations.

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How do you perform certificate discovery?

Certificate discovery can be performed via two modes – unauthenticated and authenticated.

  • Unauthenticated Network Scan
    As the name suggests, this type of discovery doesn’t require any authentication information of network devices. The scan runs on an IP range, a subnet, or an URL to identify the certificates being responded to on the various IP-Port combinations in the network.
  • Authenticated Device Scan
    Some devices or applications keep certificates with them and present them in specific conditions. Such certificates are difficult to find via network scan. For such certificates, the configuration of network devices (load balancer, firewall, web server, etc.) is scanned using the authentication credentials of the devices.
  • Authenticated Cloud Account Scan
    Appropriate authentication and authorization into the cloud account provide access to all the resources using the certificates and the internal certificate store. This allows the discovery of most certificates used in that cloud account.
  • Authenticated Scan of Certificate Authority (CA) Accounts
    CA accounts are another source of finding the certificates issued for the organizations. However, mapping these certificates to the devices and applications remains the manual effort unless these certificates are discovered via other means.

Certificate scanning can be initiated manually or scheduled to take place at regular intervals. Scanning is available for certificates in both on-premise and cloud networks. You can also customize the type of scans you want to run, whether the software scans the whole network or only parts of it, the intensity of scans, etc. The results are usually displayed using a comprehensive dashboard that you can view at your convenience. You can also get the reports emailed to your network administrator, security architects, and the rest of your IT team.

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