Public key cryptography has been one of the most significant developments in the cybersecurity space. As a best practice, organizations have always integrated cryptography to keep their most precious asset, data, secure and private. Today, as the world races towards a digital-first business premise, where all kinds of communication happen online, cryptography has become vital to data security.
While cryptography offers powerful protection against cyber threats, the effectiveness of protection funnels down to how updated your organization’s infrastructure is vis-à-vis crypto standards. It is crucial to remember that cryptography is a constant work in progress. As new threats are uncovered and existing vulnerabilities discovered, standards are updated. So, it is essential to use the latest standards to prevent vulnerabilities and potential compromises.
Governing bodies like The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) are constantly assessing the efficacy of crypto standards and rolling out updated versions with improvements to mitigate vulnerabilities. Besides, with the quantum threat looming large, regulatory bodies are working on crypto standards more fervently than before to build quantum-safe standards for the future.
The TLS protocol used to secure millions of websites worldwide has gone through several revisions. Today, the recommended version is TLS 1.3. The National Security Agency (NSA) issued a guidance note in January last year on eliminating obsolete transport layer security (TLS) protocol configurations. The other revisions include the hashing algorithm SHA-1 replaced by SHA-2 and the encryption algorithm RSA 1024 by RSA 2048.
Despite industry-wide conversations around the use of safe cryptography, many organizations continue to use weak crypto standards such as TLS 1.1 and SHA-1. Let’s take a quick look at the risks of using these deprecated standards.
What happens when you use weak crypto standards?
Imagine a user interacting with your corporate website and sharing sensitive data such as the login credentials, account information, and credit card details. Imagine if this line of communication is not secure and there is an unauthorized third party intercepting the conversation and stealing information the user is trusts you with. The stolen data is either used to manipulate the victim’s online activities or held ransom, thanks to the certificate using deprecated TLS protocol or a weak hashing algorithm.
- Security breaches
Today, encryption is used to secure a wide variety of use cases. They are used to secure communications between critical remote systems, cloud applications, virtual machines, containers, servers, IoT and mobile devices. When certificates with weak crypto standards are used, it becomes easy for hackers to break them and gain access to your core network. Once they are in the system and have taken control, fighting them out would be backbreaking work.
- Compliance issues
Data privacy governing bodies are constantly tightening their grip around compliance to curb data security issues. Compliance issues arise due to the presence of revoked or rogue certificates. Certificates usually go rogue, when they expire or are compromised due to weak crypto standards.
What’s standing in the way of moving to safe crypto standards?
Most organizations use spreadsheets and Certificate Authority (CA)-based monitoring tools to track their certificates. Given the large volume of certificates used today, spreadsheets make for a messy affair. While locating certificates due expiry is itself a herculean task, discovering and classifying certificates with weak crypto standards is simply daunting. It is this lack of visibility that makes cryptographic vulnerabilities go undetected, leading to security breaches.
Lack of automation is another big challenge. Most organizations carry out certificate lifecycle processes manually, including renewals and provisioning. Renewing a few certificates manually is not always an issue. However, manual renewal becomes inconceivable when the entire certificate infrastructure has to be upgraded, and tens and thousands of certificates must be renewed with new standards. A large-scale transition can easily take several years, risking a data breach in the meantime.
Further, reconfiguring systems and applications with weak standards to support the latest standards is manually tedious and error-prone. The systems might need to be restarted frequently during manual upgrades causing prolonged service disruptions. Manual processes also complicate policy enforcement. Multiple teams handling certificate processes often leads to dangerous variations in crypto standards, risking data exposure.
The Final Word
A quick peek into the history and it reveals several examples of organizations that simply went down because they resisted change. The same goes for how you react to cryptographic changes. Unless you’re agile enough to adopt new standards quickly, your data and your future are not as safe as you think.
To ensure your organization is always keeping up with crypto standards and steering clear of security risks, streamline and standardize your certificate lifecycle management systems. Automation can help achieve this goal in the best way possible.
Interested in learning more, check out AppViewX CERT+, an end-to-end certificate lifecycle automation solution. It not only simplifies enterprise PKI management but also bolsters the security posture by helping you build crypto-agility.