Digital certificates are the face of your enterprise online. When a customer visits your application, these certificates help to determine their first impression of your enterprise and often dictate the relationship and level of trust they will have with you going forward. Rather than constantly managing and monitoring these crucial pieces to your online presence manually, wouldn’t it be easier to install the certificates once and let them do their jobs forever? Wouldn’t it save you time to have digital certificates with infinite validity?
Sure, this approach may seem to make your job a little simpler. In fact, it could be key to creating a more nimble NetOps team. But it’s important to remember, you’re not the only one with eyes on your digital certificates. Hackers need them to hide their malicious activity in your encrypted network.
If you procure a 2048-bit RSA key signed and hashed with SHA-256 to protect your digital certificates, how long do you think will it take a hacker to break your encryption? If Moore’s law is any indication, with computers doubling in speed every two years, hackers are closer to completely spoofing your digital certificates every year, through brute force cryptographic attacks alone. So, even the strongest encryption standards of today will be considered weak and insufficient in only a few years.
Infinitely valid certificates also leave you susceptible to theft, a major problem plaguing the SSH key industry worldwide. Hackers can gain access to your digital certificates via a third party application’s vulnerabilities, invalidating your stolen certificates the moment they expire. The financial damage in this scenario compared to one where a certificate expires causing an outage is significantly greater.
Given these and other security concerns, it is crucial to resist the temptation to ignore certificates once they’re installed. Instead, smart NetOps teams must force regular certificate expirations to protect their infrastructure with the strongest encryption available. If these teams enable efficient certificate management practices to ensure on-time renewals, they can prevent any and all expiry related outages, saving their companies money and protecting their reputations.
Why should you consider automating your certificate infrastructure?
The most feared side effect of certificate expiry are unplanned application outages and the browser warnings that come with them, which can ultimately drive away customers. If you successfully renew certificates on-time, you can avoid these dreaded outages. Unfortunately, it’s not quite that simple. In fact, 80 percent of enterprises worldwide still face unplanned application outages�, oftentimes due to a delay or misdirection of expiry information.
Depending on how your enterprise is organized, there are often many stakeholders involved in the development, deployment and management of a single application. Whether they be application owners, network security engineers, PKI engineers or system administrators, there are multiple groups handling these certificates at some point in their lifecycle. With so many cooks in the kitchen, the certificate management process can be difficult to navigate, widening the margin for human error and increasing the chances of missed expiration dates.
Any error in the delivery of certificate information, such as the expiry date, ownership or device details, can make it difficult to ensure an on-time renewal before the application is forced offline. And, when the number of certificates in an infrastructure increases, so does the risk of experiencing unplanned outages.
According to Google Chrome’s latest reports, HTTPS traffic has grown by 30 percent since 2016. This means that every enterprise must manage more certificates daily, must prevent more certificates from expiry and must protect more certificates from misuse. A spreadsheet simply will not get the job done. AppViewX’s Certificate Lifecycle Automation solution can help alleviate the pain that comes with manual certificate management by equipping you with the tools necessary to simplify the job. Using the solution, users can automate the majority of the error-prone repetitive tasks, leaving less room for mistakes. In the case of multi-vendor certificate environments, it integrates information from multiple vendors into a single window helping users gain the enhanced visibility required to mitigate certificate related issues. The next few sections will showcase how each feature of the Certificate Lifecycle Automation solution makes your certificate management easier and more efficient.
While rogue, unknown and unmanaged certificates often lead to unplanned application outages, they also serve as easy targets for hackers. AppViewX’s Certificate Lifecycle Automation solution enables on-demand discovery of certificates from servers, clients and ADC devices through a variety of modes, such as IPs, subnets, URLs and managed device (ADC) logins. The discovered certificates are then automatically converted into an inventory with the required information attached. Users can schedule these discoveries at their convenience or choose a midnight sync option to keep the inventory updated every day and preventing dangerous hacks. Users can then choose between a FIPS-compliant, AES 256 encrypted key-store or an industry-standard HSM for the storage of private keys. Properly documenting every certificate is the first step to preventing certificate expiries, and the Certificate Lifecycle Automation solution’s auto-discovery helps you do just that.
Not every certificate in your inventory requires active management. Some may just need to be monitored. To cater to these requirements, the Certificate Lifecycle Automation solution offers two inventory tracking modes – Manage and Monitor. Monitor mode allows you to view reports and receive alerts on expiry and validity of certificates. While in Manage mode, you can perform a variety of actions, such as push, revoke, renew, etc., in addition to the alerting and reporting capabilities of the Monitor mode. If you wish to manually renew expiring certificates, you can choose the people who should be notified under both modes, or you can choose to renew certificates automatically.
Many people take the manual renewal route only to ensure workflows are properly defined. With the AppViewX Platform, you can actually define proper workflows in the form of work orders even while automating renewals. AppViewX integrates with popular ITSM systems to enhance the workflow experience, and during renewals, it automatically connects with the appropriate certificate authority to issue a new certificate. This ensures the new certificate is received well before expiry, which is crucial in preventing unplanned outages.
The final step in the certificate expiry workflow is the enrollment of new certificates. After the renewal stage above, a request for a new certificate is sent to the concerned certificate authority (CA). Once the CA responds with a new certificate, it is held in the inventory until the request for deployment is approved. After it is approved, the new certificate is ready to be pushed to the required device. Just like in the Renewal phase, you can choose to push the certificates manually or automatically. But after enrolling new certificates in the necessary devices, all existing connections to the expiring certificates must be severed to prevent misuse. And, existing certificates cannot be deleted unless the new ones are enabled successfully. AppViewX’s Certificate Lifecycle Automation solution helps you complete this step automatically.
Though this step acts as a silent aid in preventing certificate expiries, it is still an important part of your overall certificate management strategy. When multiple stakeholders are involved, lackluster collaboration can spoil any attempt to prevent unplanned outages. The threat of expiring certificates aside, weak certificates and unregulated access can also compromise the security of your application infrastructure. The Certificate Lifecycle Automation solution helps you administer policies – such as recommended cryptographic techniques, CAs and workflows -to eliminate rogue certificates. Users can also delegate access and apply granular visibility to individual certificates or certificate groups to enable efficient provisioning. AppViewX’s integration with external directory systems like AD, LDAP, and RADIUS makes it easier to assign access to appropriate stakeholders, improving operational efficiency and cross-team collaboration.
Certificate expiries are costly in terms of lost revenue and damaged reputations. Getting the right information to the right people at the right time is the most effective solution to avoiding unplanned application outages. Using spreadsheets to manually manage your digital certificates leads to increased risk of human error and poor cross-team collaboration. By automating your digital certificate management with AppViewX’s Certificate Lifecycle Automation solution, you can effectively rid your team of the certificate management woes that come of expiring, misused and rogue certificates. With a total possible impact of $15 million with each certificate-related outage�, it’s time to make the switch today.
The right automation tool can help you achieve unlimited possibilities with limited resources.
To learn more about our solutions, please visit https://www.appviewx.com/solutions/certificate-lifecycle-automation/