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Certificate Management: Challenges & Solution

Certificate Management: Challenges & Solution

In the digital foundation era, organizations are increasingly reliant on digital information and online entities, becoming a more significant target for cyber attackers. In order to guard digital identities from threatening external attackers and from internal malicious behavior, there is a strong need for enterprises to ensure secure identity and strong authentication mechanisms. One such approach to address this concern is through PKI (Public Key Infrastructure), which provides powerful digital user security and data services.

Unlike traditional usernames and passwords, PKI uses cryptography (X.509 standard) technologies such as digital certificates and digital signatures to provide authentication and create unique credentials. Here, certificates play a significant role in keeping the digital identity safe and verify ownership of a public key (signature) to guarantee confidentiality and security when information is exchanged between a user’s browser and the webserver. Thus, in simple words, Certificate Management is the process of monitoring, facilitating, and executing digital x.509 certificates (SSL certificates). It plays a significant role in keeping communications between a client and server operating, encrypted, and secure.

Challenges with Certificates

PKI Cryptography has been with us for a while, but it has recently started evolving, especially with the drastic changes from traditional data centers to the active adoption of digital devices to the cloud. Public Key Infrastructure is highly dependent upon cryptography. Recently, in a survey, it was observed that more than 80% of an organization's traffic is encrypted and is constantly advancing in the backdrop of a cloud-centric approach and remote work policies adoption.

Talking about digital threats, there are two kinds of it that are always associated with certificates, if not appropriately managed – one is an outage, and another is a breach. With the number of connected devices and people within the organization increasing, there are always these typical challenges that the system may face. As a result, issuing, deploying, and revoking the certificates for various devices and applications, along with ensuring that unauthorized users cannot request the certificates, becomes complex. Also, it is crucial to manage the certificate lifecycle and to secure certificates from getting abused through any cyberattacks.

Additionally, we often observe that many organizations today still use self-developed or standard tools such as the Microsoft Excel to manage and track certificates, which can cause severe harm to the organization's security protocols and is error-prone, making this an inefficient way to manage crucial documents like digital certificates. As an analogy, if you supposedly forget to renew/update the certificate on one of the servers/applications, it can take down your entire network and confidential data. So, a slight mistake could become the following big story headline of tomorrow.

Why do you need a certificate management system?

Despite an overall increase in security investment over the past decade, organizations are still plagued by breaches. We’re noticing that many of the attacks that result in breaches misuse encryption somehow. Therefore, we observe a strong need for certificate management or governance that can address varied security and data concerns that begin at discovery to implement the certificate, revocation, and assessing the protocols, including cryptography and automated renewal of the certificates.

Furthermore, there has been an unusual explosion in the number of connected devices used today: ranging from cloud applications to the internet of things (IoT). Every system connected over the internet, or another system needs at least one digital certificate to operate securely. Those who manage PKI for an organization, or a business unit often deal with hundreds, if not thousands, of certificates. Every individual certificate is linked with diverse variables which are different for each one, such as:

  • Different expiration dates (and hence, renewal necessities)
  • Issued by multiple certificate authorities
  • Monitoring and resolving unique system vulnerabilities
  • Constant monitoring to ensure effectiveness
  • Controlling who gets to request and approve certificates
  • Removal of outdated and unwanted certificates

All these processes are impossible to handle on manual systems like spreadsheets, prompting the need for a specialized certificate management process. At GlobalSign, we offer a perfect solution for your SSL certificate management. With our Certificate Inventory Tool, you can easily find, monitor, and manage all internal and public SSL certificates from one location, regardless of issuing CA, including self-signed. You can also avoid unexpected expiration through our email reminders to renew and easily track the source/issuing Certificate Authority for all your certificates. Connect today to on boards your organization.

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