Trust is a currency in short supply on the internet these days. The incidence of sophisticated ransomware attacks has nearly doubled between 2020 and 2021, according to U.S. government reports. Other forms of cybercrime like phishing have also increased drastically.
Digital certification is the only way to ensure any kind of safe and secured communication online, especially in a business enterprise. With the explosion in online commerce after the COVID-19 outbreak, certificate lifecycle management has become more important than ever before.
What is Certificate Lifecycle Management?
Digital certificates are like driving licenses or passports for your digital assets — they are used to prove the authenticity of connecting devices, user accounts, websites, or servers. Certificates are part of public key infrastructure or PKI, alongside advanced cryptographic keys.
Like ID cards, PKI certificates also have limited validity periods ranging from one year to a maximum of five years (13 months for TLS/SSL certificates). The validity period is usually set by the Certificate Authority (CA) in an organization, based on existing security policies and operational considerations.
Certificate lifecycle management is the process of requesting, issuing, auditing, renewing, and revoking PKI certificates. Constant management of the certificate lifecycle is important due to the following reasons:
- Renewal or revocation is essential because expired certificates become soft targets for cyberattacks
- Validation and auditing are important to ensure that certificates have not been compromised or misconfigured, both of which can lead to disastrous data breaches
- Expired certificates can hold up the smooth flow of communication, cause service outages, and lead to a loss of credibility
A CA has two main options for certificate lifecycle management: manual tracking using spreadsheets, or automated management using a modern, cloud-based certificate manager platform.
Why Upgrade to a Cloud-based Certificate Lifecycle Management System?
Manual tracking is slow, cumbersome, and hopelessly outdated in the modern context. Automation is essential to keep up with the new digital security challenges posed to certificate managers by recent developments. They include:
1. Shorter Validity Periods
The sad truth is that longer validity periods help hackers or even angry ex-employees wreak havoc on network systems. In 2020, the industry halved the validity of SSL/TLS certificates to just 13 months. While highly inconvenient, this is a step in the right direction for better security.
Gone are the days when CAs could set and forget about PKI certificate validity for years. You need full visibility across your existing PKI, with timely notifications and automated/one-touch renewals. Ergo, the need for an advanced certificate management system.
2. More Connected Devices
With remote work and bring your own device (BYOD) becoming more common across organizations, CAs now have to contend with many more devices entering business networks. And with the rise of Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things (IoT), things will continue to get a lot more complicated.
Certificate managers need features like remote validation, password-less authentication, zero trust, zero-touch deployment, and custom deployments to cope with increased complexity. These features also help the system to scale with the rapid growth of the enterprise.
3. Need for “Crypto-Agility”
Cybersecurity experts are locked in a constant arms race with black hat hackers and malware developers. According to the latest McKinsey reports, the criminals are relying on sophisticated AI/ML tools and automation to break even the most advanced encryptions.
There is no such thing as unbreakable encryption. Organizations need the ability to quickly switch between different encryption mechanisms in their PKI networks to nullify an attack. This capability is called crypto agility and you need an advanced certificate manager for that kind of adaptability.
Be Prepared Against Cyber Threats
With a ransomware attack or data breach, you could be staring at losses to the tune of millions of dollars. And that is without taking into account the impact such an event can have on your credibility and brand image. All it takes is one expired or compromised certificate.
In these treacherous times, you simply cannot compromise on cybersecurity. Use a reliable and feature-packed certificate management system to improve the resilience of your PKI systems and network infrastructure against all cyber threats, old and new.
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