Digital identities have played an important part in cyber security over the past several years. Propelled by a surge in remote work, corporations have increased their focus on cyber security by requiring the use of authenticated digital identities to gain access to corporate networks. Portals that require only a username and password to access from any device are increasingly seen as a liability.
The challenge faced by modern IT leaders is the complicated process of certificate management across IT environments that are only growing more complex, intertwined, and distributed. In the environment we find ourselves in today, as well as in the increasingly digitized world of the future, digital certificates based on public key infrastructure (PKI) are the best way for enterprises to authenticate digital identities. Yielding the strongest cyber security protection yet among one of the easiest authentication methods to use, PKI offers a great encryption solution for enterprise-level networks.
In this article, we will discuss the benefits of PKI automation, and why automation is best for managing certificate lifecycles.
What is Public Key Infrastructure (PKI)?
PKI is a cyber security strategy that acts as a secure gateway for communications between servers, whether from employee to employer or client to company. Certificates are generated which serve the purpose of authenticating each user. By using X.509 certificates as well as public keys to provide end-to-end encryption, servers can “trust” each other and accept communications from one another once a digital certificate is authenticated.
Benefits of automated vs manual PKI management
While many large companies entrust third-party certificate authorities (CAs) to manage their digital certificates, some others instead choose to manage these internally. While this allows companies to retain full control of their authentication procedures, it comes with a variety of drawbacks as well. A private CA must be able to support the entire certificate lifecycle management (CLM) process, from issuance, deployment, renewal, and replacements, and this must be done in a quick and efficient way.
IT architectures must support any combination of root CA and issuing CA, which can often be expensive and result in network vulnerabilities.
Manually managing PKIs is very hands-on and complex, which is why we recommend automating this for your organization. However, one of the biggest dangers of manual PKI management is the high margin of error that occurs with manual management. An isolated mistake can create disastrous consequences for an enterprise, such as in the case of an expired certificate.
A mistake in this area can result in severe damage to your brand’s reputation as well as costly, stressful IT situations. For example, in 2018, Ericsson had to deal with the fallout surrounding an expired digital certificate that created a scandal for the company. The expired certificate resulted in tens of millions of users being cut off from their cellular service in Europe and Asia. Even after the crisis was solved, Ericsson had to deal with the lofty SLA penalties (approximately 100 million Euros) that corresponded with the event.
PKI Automation cuts costs and minimizes risks
Thankfully, enterprises can choose to automate the management of their digital certificates using advanced CLM technology. By adopting automated CLM systems, your organization can consistently and efficiently manage digital certificates and ensure compliance requirements.
An automated CLM should cover these central processes:
- Creation of public or private keys and the certificate signing request (CSR) that are 8 encrypted by up-to-date algorithms
- Enrollment, or request and retrieval
- Installation on the endpoint(s) and certificate provisioning
Without automating the process behind digital certificates, which have a limited lifespan, expired certificates can go unnoticed and result in unexpected downtime, which can cost businesses revenue and reputation. By embracing an automated CLM strategy, trusted administrators can continually monitor PKI infrastructures to prevent any unforeseen event from hurting an enterprise.
By creating robust cyber security procedures for your IT infrastructure, you can minimize risks to your business without sacrificing efficiency and the ability to collaborate. This is especially important for small businesses that accept payments online. For businesses that want to be paid on time, the transaction should ideally be convenient and quick but also very secure for clients.
PKI Automation minimizes human error
PKI automation drastically cuts back on human error and ensures that the proper digital certificate is produced in a timely fashion, in the correct template, and in the correct parameters. By mitigating the risk of certificate expiration – the most common cause of system outages in manually managed PKI environments – business continuity is never threatened.
Automation not only ensures that the correct certificates are always requested and issued, but also ensures that endpoints needing new certificates are promptly addressed. PKI automation removes the possibility of forgotten endpoints creating unsafe certificates, untrusted roots, or bad keys.
According to recent cyber security statistics, the leading cause of successful cybercrime and data breaches is human error. When IT leaders entrust increasingly complex digital infrastructures to manual management, the company is opening itself up to an inherently risky setup. Furthermore, companies that want the ability to scale quickly are already in a challenging position when digital certificates are managed manually.
The last several years have seen record-breaking levels of cybercrime. Experts in cybercrime predict that cybercrime will collectively cost the world $10.25 trillion by 2025. It can open up the door to embezzlement, fraud, blackmail, and a general loss of brand reputation when clients become affected.
It can also result in lost revenue, compromised alternative data, theft of intellectual property, loss of productivity, opportunity costs. It’s clear that the future demands a higher level of protection for employers, employees, and clients alike, and well-managed, automated PKI safeguarding transactions is the right choice for enterprises who want to avoid the drama of a cybercrime incident.
Conducting business quickly and efficiently is important for any enterprise, but so is safety and cyber security. Thankfully, with a cybersecurity framework centered on automated PKI, organizations don’t have to sacrifice one for another. Fully automating your public key infrastructure so digital certificates can be requested, issued, managed, and terminated properly and promptly is vital to running a successful business in 2022.