The complexity of deploying public key infrastructure (PKI) setups and efficiently managing them has multiplied manifold over the last decade. Developments like shrinking certificate validity, emerging technology, a rapidly increasing number of connected devices, and evolving standards have made it increasingly challenging for NetOps and SecOps teams to keep their certificate infrastructures in perfect working order – the presence of thousands of certificates eventually result in slippages like unnoticed expirations or lost certificates.
A lack of visibility into the certificate infrastructure remains a key concern. With multiple departments across geographies requesting and enrolling certificates onto endpoints, a lack of a structured process results in certificates being lost on the network. For instance, the expiration of one certificate could make it incredibly difficult for administrators to track, locate, and renew it.
A lack of understanding of PKI and a shortage of skilled PKI management personnel are other challenges many organizations face. This is a growing issue for businesses – as more new technology like cloud and the internet-of-things (IoT) find applications in the market, network teams often find it challenging to apply suitable PKI strategies due to a lack of awareness. Technological limitations cannot be overlooked either.
Disruptive new technologies will require PKI for security and authentication
Network and security personnel foresee the rise of cutting-edge technology in tomorrow’s markets – and all of them will need their endpoints to be safeguarded by PKI to protect the data they transmit and store.
Upcoming technological trends will require PKI
The IoT, closely followed by cloud applications and mobile technology, will require specialized PKI setups to function, each with its own set of standards and protocols that need to be followed. Businesses poised for growth will most certainly have to include them on their roadmaps and their PKI infrastructures.
Even the best-designed PKIs require supporting systems to help manage them by streamlining certificate tasks, key rotations, and the entire gamut of PKI operations. An efficient certificate lifecycle management (CLM) will enable administrators to renew, revoke, or install certificates from a single interface and weave together multiple vendors (certificate authorities or CA’s, hardware security modules or HSM’s, identity and access management or IAM tools, et al.) and allow them to work in synergy with your PKI.
Essentially, every PKI needs to be paired with a certificate management system that can work with it to help execute these tasks.
Having discussed the need for a robust PKI and management system, there are a few common goals that enterprises aim to achieve when they look to implement a full-fledged PKI management suite.
What are some of the common goals you are planning to achieve? If you want to accomplish any three goals from the ones mentioned below, you need an integrated PKI and CLM system to achieve these goals quickly.
- Prevent outages and breaches
- General key security and attack surface minimization
- Achieve compliance
- Minimize manual effort
- Scale your PKI
- Integrate PKI with third-party vendors
- Secure authentication
- Gain visibility into PKI
In a recent study conducted by the Ponemon Institute, 52% of respondents mentioned that their organizations experienced one or more security incidents or data breaches in the past two years. These security incidents were caused by a variety of factors, including:
- digital certificate compromise caused mainly by a cyberattack, according to 57 percent of respondents
- certificate authority (CA) compromise as per 49 percent of respondents
- an employee or third-party negligence, according to 48 percent of respondents
While businesses continue to invest in technology that helps manage PKI, their money isn’t in the right place. Your organization is at risk if you rely on CA-issued software and custom solutions developed by internal IT to manage certificates and keys rather than investing in dedicated certificate management tools. While the immediate cost benefits of this approach are tangible, they are not feasible in the long run, and here’s why:
CA-provided software is an excellent alternative for businesses with a minimal quantum of certificates. However, companies now use many certificates issued by multiple CAs. These are across varying endpoints, devices, and virtual instances. Therefore, the effectiveness of software built by a CA, which focuses on managing their certificates, quickly fades away. They also lack the deep multi-vendor integration and workflow automation capabilities that dedicated tools have.
Homegrown, custom solutions have their faults as well. In addition to the drawbacks of using CA-provided tools, these solutions also lack cohesive functionality. They are usually developed on an ad-hoc basis and not centrally deployed across a network, and that fogs visibility. Moreover, they are not scalable and fail to exert the intended level of control over a network’s constituent certificates once the number exceeds a certain threshold.
CLM tools come with modules to manage each aspect of the process. The entire lifecycle can be centrally managed from the tool’s interface, from auto-scanning environments to detecting and maintaining inventory to automatically renewing expired certificates and revoking rogue ones. They are also equipped with functionality that permits custom workflow definition, dynamic network monitoring, granular access control, policy enforcement, and auditing. With key security and vendor integration capabilities thrown in, they allow administrators to manage their PKI with minimal effort and maximize their return on investment on PKI.
Invest in a CLM solution with pre-built integrations with third-party systems. This integration allows IT operations teams to access simple automation workflows from third-party systems for self-servicing certificate requests, therefore standardizing certificate management.
A certificate management solution that integrates with existing enterprise scanners can penetrate deep into the enterprise network and discover all certificates in a hybrid network infrastructure. The integration also eliminates the complexity of running multiple scanners for certificate discovery.
Equally important is integration with mobile device management (MDMs) and enterprise mobility management (EMM) systems for simplified and secure certificate management. This helps discover certificates from each device group within the MDM, monitor them for expiry, leverage internal and external CA for issuing new certificates, and efficiently push them back to the device group.