Simplify Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) Update – Stay Away from Complexities

Is your organization using weak keys? Organizations using weak keys or vulnerable web servers are easy targets for hackers. However strange it might sound, there are currently more at-risk websites than attackers who can take advantage of such vulnerabilities. However, does that mean that you are not at risk? The first step to ward off such vulnerability is to have an updated public key infrastructure (PKI). You need to keep your PKI up to date to evade such attacks because mitigation is always cheaper than remediation. That is why successful PKI updates are more important than ever.

Simplify Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) Update

If you wish to update your vulnerable certificates manually, the following six steps can help you minimize errors.

Six-step migration process 

Step 1: Discovery of all certificates with weak keys

Identify SSL certificates that have a vulnerable digital signature across the infrastructure. You need to pay extra attention to discover and track down every certificate with this weak signature (all certificates in the chain of trust, including intermediate). This needs to be done irrespective of the nature of the server (internal or public-facing).

Step 2: Inventory assessment of existing certificates

The next step is to conduct a detailed assessment of all digital certificates in the inventory. Post assessment, group certificates and prioritize them according to the organization’s requirements, such as replacing weak certificates on mission-critical and public-facing applications. These must be done before updating certificates on internal servers.

The CISO’s Guide to Machine Identity Management.

Step 3: Impact analysis of PKI migration

Identify every stakeholder who might be impacted by this update. Have a proper communication plan in place to keep them updated on all changes and progress. 

Set up a core migration team. The migration team should do an impact analysis to assess system compatibility with the certificates to be updated. Split multi-domain certificates, such as wildcard certificates, into multiple certificates for supporting legacy applications that do not support the updated signature. All external-facing legacy systems that do not support the latest PKI should be updated immediately. Identify the weak PKI in all internally used legacy systems and roll out a plan to phase it out without disrupting operations.

Step 4: PKI migration

Prioritize certificates and update in a similar order post conducting impact analysis. If necessary, the intermediate certificates should also be updated to complete the trust chain. The updated certificates can be reissued, renewed, or purchased from the vendor(s) of your choice. 

Ensure that you have a proper backup plan in place. This backup of all the old and new certificates must be stored securely for recovery. This should happen before replacing weak certificates 

With updated certificates on your servers and trust stores, let us not forget the challenges and complexities underlying manual migrations. These can be error-prone, hence there is a need for each step to be documented and accounted for.

Step 5: Validation of migration

Once the migration is completed, create a detailed migration report on the process after rechecking your environment for old certificates. Use this report to validate and ensure successful completion. Share the status and progress of the migration plan with key stakeholders.

Step 6: Enforceable policy creation

The migration team should create policies to guide the post-migration process and ensure standardized deployment across the infrastructure in the future.

A Comprehensive How-To Guide to Certificate Lifecycle Management (CLM)

Ensuring a successful PKI update

Have a formal plan in place to measure the success of your PKI update. Create a set of essential questions and conduct an impact analysis to gauge the effectiveness of any such update.

  • Business Continuity: Have any of your applications suffered an outage?
  • Compatibility: Is it compatible with legacy systems?
  • Scalability and Agility: Is it scalable to include future enhancements in PKI?
  • Recovery: Will you be able to restore to your older PKI if something goes wrong?
  • Budget: Were you able to complete the migration within the stipulated budget and timelines?

Now that you have updated your PKI, have a best-practices system in place with lessons learned that will be a guiding factor for any such future updates.

Avoid factors that can render your updates useless

Beyond the initial success of your PKI update, some things can dampen your efforts.

Using deprecated algorithms: Ensure that certificates with vulnerable keys do not reappear in your infrastructure. Insiders may have opportunities to misuse their privileges and introduce vulnerabilities into the system.

Not enforcing strict policies: Enforce strict policies governing individuals and restrict them from introducing deprecated certificates into the system. Validate your certificates regularly to ward off vulnerabilities. 

Using free certificates: Free certificates can introduce rogue certificates in the system. Use proper care while using them since these undocumented installations usually bypass policies. 

Simplify PKI update with certificate lifecycle automation solution from AppViewX

Manually managing certificate lifecycles is slow, error-prone, and highly inefficient. With hundreds of thousands of certificates in circulation, administrators cannot rely on manual management techniques to ensure that PKI is constantly secure and up-to-date. 

Automation tools simplify certificate operations by allowing administrators to carry out all necessary activities from a single interface (i.e., without using each certificate authority’s interface to renew or revoke the certificates they have issued). 

Automation helps enable cryptographic agility – digital identities can stay on top of protocol and algorithm upgrades to offer the best possible protection under all circumstances. Automating certificate and key lifecycle management – enrollment, provisioning, renewal, and revocation – helps keep digital identities up-to-date and effectively eliminates outages. Processes such as policy management and SSH key rotation can be automated for better security. This is why it is recommended to use a certificate management and automation tool to ease your PKI transition.

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

Do you want to manage your machine identities better?


  • certificate lifecycle management
  • PKI
  • PKI management
  • PKI Management Solution
  • SSL Certificate Lifecycle 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.

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