Internal certificate authorities (CAs) are expensive. Many organisations devote an incredible amount of time and expertise managing their internal CAs and realise that they don’t have enough resources and manpower to effectively operate it. If you can relate to the situation above or are still searching for the best tool to manage your certificates, we’re glad you have come across this article. Like your organisation or company, many others have spent years building up their own CA infrastructure and have come looking for a better, more manageable method. If your existing infrastructure is becoming too overwhelming, don’t worry. We can simplify it.
If you already have a basic knowledge on the complexities of on-premise Public Key Infrastructure (PKI), you can skip to “How much is your PKI costing you?”. But if you have no prior experience with managing your own internal CA, we advise that you keep on reading to learn the complexities of on-premise PKI.
What is PKI management?
Certificate Issuance Process
In a hyperconnected environment, it is integral for individuals and businesses to secure online communications. One of the foundational steps in protecting information exchange is through the use of digital certificates. Combining the technologies of cryptography and PKI, digital certificates authenticate the identity of users, servers, and devices, resulting in security and trust within the network. The issuance of certificates is done by trusted party CAs who validate the identity of the domain and organisation, depending on the requirement.
However, despite the security digital certificates provide, it is necessary to ensure the compliance and proper management of these certificates. This is where PKI management comes in. While PKI refers to the technology making up an encryption framework, public key infrastructure management refers to the entire framework that allows encryption and management of public keys and certificates associated with it towards creating a highly secured digital network for users and servers alike.
Essentially, PKI management is the foundation of secure online transactions, ensuring the authenticity of digital certificates and safeguarding sensitive information. A well-designed certificate issuance process is crucial to realising the full potential of PKI and maintaining trust that underpins our digital world.
Certificate Issuance Policy
Prior to issuing certificates, CAs follow measures to validate the subject of the certificate. The certificate issuance policy refers to the document stating different PKI entities, roles, and duties, shifting control and responsibility of the certificate to the certificate authority. This policy describes the measures the CA implemented through the validation process and the purpose of the certificate, determining whether the certificate will be trusted. Certificate issuance policy and process helps towards the management of certificates, defining the standards of PKI.
The complexity of on-premise PKI
As cyberattacks become stronger and more complex, most organisations implement PKI management to reduce cybersecurity risks. Historically, most organisations manage PKI on their own, believing that on-premise systems and resources will be more cost-effective and efficient. However, with the digital transformation phenomenon, many companies are shifting to a cloud-based PKI for a number of reasons.
First, on-premise PKI management is more expensive. In-house management requires a huge upfront investment to establish infrastructure, processes, and people, combined with the high cost of PKI infrastructure and licensing fees. Combined with this is the need for consistently updated software and infrastructure. If unmanaged properly, delays in system updates increase the risk for successful cyberattacks in the network.
Similarly, organisations have reported that on-premise PKI comes with high compliance and maintenance costs. There is also the challenge of having overworked cybersecurity employees due to the complexity of systems and increasing number of cyberattacks. With companies placing a greater priority on cybersecurity systems, on-premise PKI is becoming less sustainable.
How much is your PKI costing you?
Internal certificate authority
While external CAs have the capability to validate and issue digital certificates, some organisations choose to use their own certificates. This is called an internal certificate authority – where businesses generate their own digital certificate for their networks. Internal certificate authorities are perceived to be cheaper as they do not have upfront fees that are required by third-party CAs, yet issuing your own digital certificates actually comes with costs in maintaining your own server and gathering other IT resources. In addition, internal CAs are known to be prone to increased security risks as a result of limited cyber infrastructure and lack of rigorous security protocols.
Free PKI services
Are you considering free PKI services instead of paying up front to save on costs? You’re not alone. Some organisations believe that third-party PKI solutions require high fees for upfront implementation and maintenance, thus choosing to leverage on free and on-premise PKI services. Aside from financial considerations, some companies also choose to use free PKI services due to the flexibility and control they provide, allowing them to customise the solution according to business needs.
Despite these pros in using free PKI services, these types of solutions can incur more costs in the long run. Some of these hidden costs include software and infrastructure acquisition, maintenance, backup technology, certificate lifecycle management, and IT training. Aside from this, free PKI services also require a dedicated IT staff for maintenance and upgrades. If not done properly, free PKI solutions can also potentially cause increased risk of breaches and disorganisation of certificate lifecycles, costing the organisation more compared to external services.
Outsourcing PKI management to trusted third party CA
With the mentioned cons of free PKI services, an increasing number of companies choose to outsource PKI management to a trusted third-party certificate authority. This usually involves the use of cloud-based services to manage Public Key Infrastructure.
Moving PKI management to cloud has a lot of perceived benefits for the organisation. First, a cloud-based PKI eliminates hidden costs of PKI deployment and reduces the total cost of ownership as certificate authorities include the full cost in their solutions: from licensing, hardware, installation, dedicated PKI experts, scalable deployment, and other necessary IT resources. Next, outsourcing PKI management allows easier certificate management for organisations, managing certificates in a centralised location. This ensures that the certificate’s lifecycle is properly monitored for renewals and revocation. Moreover, outsourced and cloud-based PKI improves cybersecurity in organisations. Cloud-based solutions provide the highest level of network security, ensuring regulatory compliance for organisations.
AEG benefits as a PKI Management Tool
The Auto-Enrollment Gateway is a fully automated and scalable PKI management solution designed for environments that uses a mix of platforms and devices. AEG is GlobalSign’s latest innovation allowing organisations to easily enroll, provision, and install digital certificates.
How AEG solves the problem with expensive internal PKI
One of the main problems associated with the use of on-premise PKI management services is the high investment cost and complexity of the solution. As PKI is not a one-time solution, its use involves high maintenance costs and the requirement to upgrade current technology, adapting it to the evolution of the cybersecurity landscape.The use of Auto Enrollment Gateway answers this problem. AEG is considered the most efficient and cost-effective way to automate and protect the identities of an organisation as it allows the automation of certificate provisioning and management. This removes the need for maintaining an internal certificate authority. Despite the perception that internal CAs are free, they usually involve high hidden costs and increased security risks. With AEG, your organisation will be better off in the long run.
Active Directory (AD) integrationOne of the best features of GlobalSign’s Auto Enrollment Gateway is its ability to integrate the Active Directory, extending the reach of PKI management to every endpoint of the corporate network. Through integration with Active Directory, AEG allows seamless certificate provisioning and registration, regardless of the operating system or the platform used.
Simple to use, automated PKI managementCertificate management is often one of the major challenges IT teams faces, especially when done independently. Monitoring and ensuring proper certificate updates is essential towards the protection of the organisation’s networks, and when done improperly, could result in huge security breaches. Through GlobalSign’s AEG, certificate and PKI management is now automated from enrollment in line with the Certificate Policy to its lifecycle management.
Easy PKI reportingBeing one of the most trusted certificate authorities, GlobalSign ensures your company’s compliance with different regulatory requirements. We manage security and operations towards ensuring that your organisation meets SLAs and compliance requirements.
Reduce total cost of ownership for PKI
As PKI management is now cloud-based and scalable for enterprise environments across various platforms and devices, the total cost of ownership for PKI is significantly reduced by as much as 50 percent. Organisations can capitalise on existing infrastructure and reduce IT overhead with GlobalSign’s SaaS CA.GlobalSign’s Auto Enrollment Gateway also allows organisations to have a direct gateway towards a number of solutions: Atlas, GlobalSign’s next-generation cloud Certificate Authority, and the Active Directory. AEG also reduces the cost of IT maintenance while maintaining a high level of security within the organisation’s networks.
Drive digital transformation across the enterprise
In the digital transformation phenomenon prevalent among leading organisations, it is necessary to look at areas where digital transformation could play a significant role in improving business operations. One of which is information technology, specifically information security.
Automated managed public key infrastructure solutionThe automation of PKI infrastructure management poses various benefits to the organisation. Aside from significantly reducing the total cost of ownership, the use of automated solutions like the Auto Enrollment Gateway largely improves the efficiency of the business. Shifting to an automated PKI solution ensures the maximum security for your organisation’s identities while also allowing seamless issuance, deployment, and lifecycle management of the certificates, allowing IT teams to focus on core competencies rather than acting as an internal CA.
AEG use cases
For certificate issuanceThe AEG can be used in issuing and enrolling certificates to all types of Active Directory objects like users, servers, and devices. SSL/TLS certificates can also be issued in domain joined servers via Active Directory integration from either a dedicated issuing CA or GlobalSign’s public CA.
Compatible certificates and usesGlobalSign’s Auto Enrollment Gateway can be used in a variety of cases, from digital certificates via Active Directory integration or Linux Servers via ACME protocol, MS Office document signing and secure email via digital signatures, machine and user authentication via AD integration, and mobile authentication to email, VPN, and Wi-Fi.
The question now is, “Is handing over the PKI management process to a third-party certificate authority, safe for the organisation?” The Auto Enrollment Gateway is a highly trusted solution that is recognised by organisations around the world.
Are certificate authorities trustworthy?Having read through the benefits of shifting PKI management services to external certificate authorities, you may be wondering about the safety of your organisation’s network in the hands of CAs. Having been a key player in the industry since 1996, we are largely trusted entities that go through a series of compliance requirements before being able to issue certificates. We follow strict guidelines and pass regular audit checks, ensuring trustworthiness and security against potential breaches.
PKI Management RolesCertificate authorities are also considered an integral part of PKI management, taking on various crucial roles: validation of organisations, verification of domain names, issuance of SSL/TLS digital certificates, and management of these certificates. Certificate authorities can also be involved in PKI management, ensuring that the certificate lifecycle is managed and distributed effectively to ensure the continuity and security of your business’ networks. Through AEG, GlobalSign also takes an active role in ensuring efficiency and compliance within the organisation’s cyber operations.
Building an effective PKI plan
PKI management best practices
Proper management of the Public Key Infrastructure is essential towards the continuity of operations and maintaining security within the organisation’s networks. While some companies choose to implement free and on-premise PKI solutions, the perceived cost savings can result in more expenses for the organisation, and at the same time, can compromise the security of both users and servers. Therefore, it is necessary to implement the best PKI management practices such as effectively monitoring certificate lifecycles, employing strict protection for private keys, consistently updating PKI infrastructure in line with the latest technology, and ensuring internal security, among others.
All these could also be completed and enhanced through outsourcing a certificate authority that would bring various benefits to your organisation. This includes an increase in level of trust, simplification of certificate lifecycle management, reduced total cost of PKI ownership, opportunity for IT teams to focus on core competencies, and enhanced security within the system. The certificate authority would also need to be constantly evaluated, ensuring that their services are compliant with industry standards.
Using PKI management solutions
Not all PKI management solutions are made equal. While some services do the work of managing PKI, some service providers offer features that go beyond PKI management. GlobalSign’s Auto Enrollment Gateway allows organisations to fully automate and scale their PKI management and certificate lifecycle, designed for environments that uses a mix of platforms and devices. Through AEG, you too can make your PKI management more efficient, all while enhancing the security of your business’ cyberinfrastructure.
Our AEG is the cornerstone of secure online transactions. Your organisation can now leverage on effortless automation and capitalise on existing infrastructure. Let AEG simplify the process, harnessing the power of your existing CA infrastructure and reducing IT overhead. If you’re interested to learn more, you can speak to our experts here.