There are many teams that follow manual and ticket-based approaches for certificate management that work over an ad-hoc basis. Even enterprises have employed certificates over the whole IT infrastructure that will protect the data belonging to them and their customers. This fact stays that value of the robust and leak-proof certificate management software can’t be understated. Even, history has demonstrated one single certificate getting offline will snowball in costing the company millions of dollars.
When the certificate gets installed on a server, it needs to be monitored regularly for the issues and renewed when the validity expires or replaced with the new one. Whereas one obvious problem with manual management is the fact that handling plenty of certificates will be error-prone, time-consuming, and unreliable, there are a few hidden downsides, but when you take the help of certificate management software there are many benefits to it.
- Clouded visibility: When building on former pain-point and soloed severely limit the visibility in the trust structures that can lead to several certificates that go undocumented. It makes this very painful to locate & maintain the certificate to prevent unexpected expiry.
- Inefficient Policy & Audit Mechanisms: Lack of granular control on who modifies and generates the certificates or keys don’t allow for reliable tracking and homogenous policy enforcement over any network.
- A manual certificate steals time & weakens you. When your company grows gradually, so the volume of the digital certificates and though the number goes in dozens and hundreds, managing this through manual tools needs plenty of concentration, and time just to ensure errors aren’t introduced.
- Insecure key storage: Holding the private keys in the unsecured locations (text documents, opposed to the HSMs) opens up the enterprise to various data possibilities theft and breaches by MITM attacks. The human element that is involved in manual management is one constant risk factor.
However, even this will not completely protect us from human mistakes. Manual processes, whether it is the calendar reminders, spreadsheets, or just your head, will be error-prone & susceptible to weaknesses:
- The information doesn’t get automatically updated in an event of the data and company certificate changes
- You won’t get alerted before the time when the certificate needs any kind of actions
- Manual tools don’t double-check the accuracy of the entered data
One mistake or typo will prove it very costly. For instance, you may miss the certificate or renewal deadline that will result in the expiration or system breakdown and can also lead to a security breach.
Different Stages of the Certificate Lifecycle Management
The certificate lifecycle management coincides with PKI and has its set of rules & protocols — which are focused on the discovery, management, as well as monitoring of the Digital Certificates. The Certificate Management is generally concerned with the certificates that are issued by the mutually trusted CA. When these Digital Certificates are issued, they should be diligently managed through the whole validity time. It will appear very simple, but the management of the certificates is very easy and trouble-free.
Here are some stages of certificate lifecycle management.
Discovery is a process in which the whole network infrastructure gets checked to decide where every certificate gets installed and verify if it’s implemented rightly. Using the discovery scan makes sure this network is totally free from unknown certificates that will probably have unresolved bugs and can get weak links, which can get exploited.
Organizing the certificates in centralized inventory makes the certificate operations like renewals & revocations simple. Relate devices to the certificates, keeping track of every device’s status & understand how much time is there till the corresponding certificates expire. One common practice is categorizing the certificates based on the intended purpose.
Allow End-to-end Checking
Despite having an automated certificate management procedure, the PKI infrastructures need to be monitored constantly for any kind of weak links. So, what you require in the system, which ties in each aspect of the certificates over multiple CAs & network security or automation software. Dashboards tracking expiry & redundancy are handy, just notifications sent to the certificate owners before expiry. Another important way to drill on the monitoring and maintenance cycle is scheduling the reports on the status of a certificate that reaches just their owners.