Are Digital Identities The New Cyber Weak Link For Enterprises? The Year That Was

Certificate management in today’s distributed IT environment is easier said than done. Missed certificate expirations, rogue certificates, frequent network outages, and increasing security vulnerabilities are signs of a failing certificate lifecycle management (CLM). And 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. Most organizations know that managing digital certificates efficiently is critical to securing the digital business. 

Why do you need to protect digital identities?

Prevent outages 

Diligent certificate management helps avoid issues like expiry and invalidity, which leave users open to attacks and system downtime. The average certificate count of a business runs into thousands. Several variables are associated with managing one certificate (multiple CAs, expiration dates, levels of encryption, network locations). Imagine the risks an expired certificate poses. It has a cascading effect from unplanned outages to tarnished brand image, leaked customer data, and financial losses. 

Tech giant Microsoft fixed several Windows 11 features failing to load after an expired certificate was discovered. According to The Verge, some Windows 11 users could not open apps like the Snipping Tool, touch keyboard, or emoji panel since a certificate expired on October 31, 2021.

We fixed a known issue that might prevent some users from opening or using certain built-in Windows apps or parts of some built-in apps. This issue occurs because of a Microsoft digital certificate that expired October 31, 2021,” says Brandon LeBlanc, a program manager for the Windows Insider team.

Buyer’s Guide for Certificate Lifecycle Management

Respect the privacy of customer data 

Safeguard the privacy of customers by protecting digital certificates. Data breaches shake the foundation of trust with customers. Customers would never want their personal information to fall into the wrong hands. 

A recent GoDaddy data breach exposed the data of 1.2 million customers. In its statement filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, GoDaddy revealed that the breach was discovered on November 17, 2021, when suspicious activity was detected in its managed WordPress hosting environment. 

GoDaddy reported that the breach exposed email addresses and customer numbers linked to the WordPress accounts; the original WordPress admin password set during account provisioning; SSH File Transfer Protocol (SFTP) and database username and passwords; and SSL private keys for a subset of active customers.  

The breach at GoDaddy can have far-reaching consequences for its impacted customers. The exposure of email addresses puts users at a high risk of phishing attacks. Attackers can use compromised passwords to take control of WordPress sites to inject malware or carry out identity theft and fraud transactions. They could also potentially use the stolen SSL key to hijack a domain name and hold it for ransom. They could intercept client-server communication, scam customers, and change corporate websites. 

Protect critical business assets and build trust

When customers visit your application, digital certificates help determine their first impression of your enterprise. They often dictate the relationship and level of trust they will have with you going forward.

Hackers compromised the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s external email system on November 13, 2021. Thousands of emails were sent out from an FBI email account warning about a possible cyberattack. The FBI said it, along with the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, is “aware of the incident involving fake emails from an @ic.fbi.gov email account.”

Among numerous email systems that belong to the FBI, the hacked one is supposed to be public-facing. This means that FBI agents and employees use this email system to send emails to the public.

When evading cyberattacks, it all comes down to how well machine identities and human identities are managed. Every attack starts when threat actors gain access to the organization’s critical infrastructure. This happens either by breaking or stealing a device or user’s credentials.

Adherence to compliance

Every industry needs to abide by a set of compliance standards for encryption. Your business might be required to adhere to commonly accepted standards (for instance, replacing certificates periodically, regardless of expiry). In that case, you will need a tool to automate this process and perform periodic checks so that companies don’t end up paying hefty fines for non-compliance.

A cyberattack in Newfoundland rocked the healthcare system, and thousands of procedures, including COVID-19 testing, were delayed. 

 “A cyberattack that targeted the Newfoundland-Labrador healthcare system in Canada might be the worst of its kind in Canadian history. The attack was first discovered on October 30, 2021. But by the time it was confirmed, it had already caused widespread disruption of healthcare services. It allegedly delayed thousands of medical appointments and almost all non-emergency appointments around the Eastern Health region.”

Every industry needs to abide by a set of compliance standards for encryption. There are many regulations with which organizations must comply. Consider investing in a tool that will help automate the process. It is also critical to perform the necessary periodic checks to avoid paying hefty fines stemming from non-compliance. 

Don’t take risks for granted

X.509 certificates and their keys are critical to application security, but busy IT professionals don’t have the bandwidth to manage them efficiently in today’s business environment. Here are five best practices for certificate management if you would like a quick overview of the key guiding principles for managing digital certificates. Keep this handy and focus on keeping unauthorized users at bay to prevent certificate outages. 

Discover 

Discover certificates from various devices and applications. Perform unauthenticated network scan as well as authenticated scan of devices, certificate authority (CA) accounts, and cloud accounts to discover as many certificates as possible

Central inventory and analytics

The central inventory provides insights into certificate expiry timelines and crypto standards (e.g., cipher strength, key size, TLS protocol version) and helps avoid application outages by renewing on time. 

Protect private keys

Use a central key escrow like an encrypted software vault or a hardware security module (HSM) to ensure maximum protection. Automate certificate lifecycle processes to further eliminate the need for human access to the key and avoid key roaming. 

Granular access control

Employ a granular, multi-layer access control approach where access to each functionality in the certificate lifecycle (discovery, monitoring, renewal, issuance, provisioning) can be configured based on a person’s role.

End-to-end automation

Save time and effort and avoid manual errors and potential compromises by automating the entire certificate lifecycle process, from the issuance/renewal of certificates to provisioning/binding of the certificate to the application using the certificate.

AppViewX can help!

AppViewX CERT+ is a turnkey solution for all enterprise public key infrastructure (PKI) needs. With AppViewX CERT+, enterprises can quickly set up their internal root certifying authority (CA) as well as issuing CAs without having to upfront invest in costly hardware or complicated processes or cumbersome PKI operations. Certificate lifecycle management (CLM) in CERT+ simplifies all certificate operations between CA and the applications where certificates are used.

Do you want to manage your machine identities better?

Tags

  • Certificate Management
  • PKI
  • PKI management
  • SSL Certificate 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.

More From the Author →

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