Digital certificates are electronic documents, which make up the public key infrastructure (PKI) of a network: a framework that enables secure and trusted communication between applications, devices, and servers. A certificate that is expired, compromised or rogue is the very definition of a security lapse and it can be responsible for outages, data breaches, and malicious cyberattacks. The implications of expired certificates may appear similar to various other types of network failures, thus making it hard to be resolved fast.
Implementing an automated certificate lifecycle management (CLM) helps in:
- Simplifying certificate ownership and approval
- Integrating certificate management with other critical enterprise solutions
- Discovering and monitoring digital certificates across the network infrastructure.
Prevent Certificate-Related Outages with CLM
Discovery: Scanning and discovering unknown certificates across the distributed environments boost in-depth security assessment and add holistic visibility into the certificate infrastructure.
You can perform a certificate discovery via two modes – unauthenticated and authenticated. Discovering certificates using an unauthenticated network scanning process does not require any authentication information of network devices. The scan runs on an IP range, sub-net, or URL to identify the certificates within the network.
Authenticated scanning of devices, networks, cloud accounts, and certificate authorities (CA) require appropriate authentication and authorization method to access the certificate store and the resources using the certificates. Some certificates are often stored in devices and applications using specific conditions. For such certificates, you need to scan the configuration of network devices using the authentication credentials of the devices.
Holistic visibility: A centralized inventory of certificates will help you identify and organize certificates easily, group them for administrative conveniences like policy enforcement and access control, and gain holistic visibility of certificates, keys, and their respective device associations. Knowing certificate expiry timelines and frequent assessment of the crypto-standards (cipher strength, key size, and TLS protocols) will help stay proactive with timely renewals. Identifying certificates having weak crypto-standards helps in enhancing the security of PKI without much effort.
Alerting, reporting, and logging: An automated solution equipped with built-in alerting systems, for events like certificate expiry, is crucial for outage prevention. You can get these auto-alerts delivered to you via emails for manual actions, or via simple network management protocols (SNMP) for automation. Setting certificate expiration alerts will remind you to update or renew the certificate. You can customize these alerts to be sent a specific number of days (like 60 or 90 days) prior to the date of expiration to avoid any last-minute rush and missed expirations.
A pre-configured dashboard containing custom alerts can be added as per the organizations’ requirements. A dashboard view enables you to get comprehensive knowledge about network health at a glance. The important certificate-related activities and processes, like certificate renewals and configurations, can be logged following enterprise policies. Maintaining and monitoring the enterprise log storage systems will allow you to get a deep insight into every change ever made within the certificate infrastructure.
Renewal: Renewing your digital certificates authenticates your website identity and ensures that the encryption processes you use can secure the data of your users. The shrinking lifespan of the certificates, which can be around one year (397 days) or even 90 days, is favorable from a security standpoint. However, renewing certificates, that too if you are employing manual processes, can be costly and time-consuming. With auto-renewals, you can reduce the probability of errors and missed expirations.
The certificate renewal process includes generating public-private key pair, creating a certificate signing request (CSR), activating certificates, validating certificate renewal, and installing and renewing certificates. It is preferable to generate a new CSR every time you renew your old certificates as it incorporates up-to-date hashing and encryption algorithms into the renewed certificates.
Provisioning: Once you have your certificates ready to be deployed, you can choose the end-points where you want them to be installed. These could be devices, websites, and applications. An end-to-end certificate lifecycle automation tool not just pushes the certificates, but also binds them to the end-points.