Certificate Lifecycle Management Best Practices.

For years, IT has controlled and governed the policies governing the use of digital certificates. Manually issuing and revoking digital certificates from spreadsheets, on the other hand, has been the usual. This haphazard method of certificate administration is prone to human mistakes and inefficient. Furthermore, because their use has grown established in internal and external data security and compliance requirements, manual management of digital certificates has become a serious risk. Certificate Lifecycle Management (CLM) solutions reduce that risk by removing the possibility of human error.

Certificate Authorities (CAs), or corporations that issue certificates, are not always the ones who create and sell CLM systems. Enterprise systems frequently include certificates from several vendors, each having its own lifecycles, uses, and configurations.

An Integrated Future

The next hot subject in the CLM and cybersecurity worlds is adopting a certificate agnostic approach to certificate management to enable interoperability. With high-profile breaches, shorter certificate expiration requirements, and identity management challenges frequently making the news, the need for flexible and integrated CLM solutions is more evident than ever.

Evaluating Certificate Agnostic Certificate Lifecycle Management Solutions

So, how does one know if a CLM system is a certificate agnostic? By examining its strengths in the following areas:

Type.

CLM platforms must manage all types of certifications. SSL/TLS, S/MIME, SSH, and other types of X509 certificates are divided into categories, each with its own set of objectives and capabilities.¬†Exotic forms of non-X509 certificates that facilitate the Internet of Things (IoT) devices are also becoming more prevalent in the industry. Large organizations’ environments are likely to include all of the above and more, and their CLM solution should match that diversity.

Configuration.

When a CA issues a certificate, it establishes policies for that certificate’s use. Among the policies mentioned are term restrictions, hashing algorithms, key lengths, and access guidelines. Furthermore, a CLM solution should be able to manage any certificate and maintain track of many configurations at the same time, regardless of the specifications supplied by the CA.

Geographical location.

With remote work becoming more common, organizations are likely to have credentials all over the place. They could be on physical servers on-premises, off-premises with a third-party host, in a cloud-based system, or on laptops and other devices.

Environment.

Every business has a unique information technology ecosystem tailored to meet its specific needs, and the characteristics of each environment within the ecosystem typically vary between departments.

Operating systems, cloud-based capabilities, DevOps requirements, server setup, and other factors can all have an impact on how certificates are distributed and used throughout a company. To properly administer the system, a comprehensive CLM solution must be able to access certificates across several environmental conditions.

Certificate Lifecycle Management best practices

Obtain Visibility

Maintain constant control over all certificates in your inventory. This entails regularly scanning the network for CA-issued certificates and mapping them to the endpoints on which they are deployed. While this streamlines future certificate operations, it also assists administrators in removing orphaned, expired, or otherwise unsafe certificates.

Subnet searches are ideal for locating certificates and host names. To avoid network load, undertake well-controlled scans by batching the subnet list and establishing cooling times between scans.

Keep an inventory

Checking that the scan results are saved or updated in your current inventory is essential. The categorization of discovered certificates aids in the simplification of processes.

Furthermore, you could also wish to organize them by owner hierarchy to make monitoring and alert escalation easier. Finally, ensuring that policy is applied consistently across groups is critical, but we’ll get to that later.

Keep Private Keys Safe

Whatever mechanism you employ to store private keys (HSMs, software vaults, keystones, or even files), your first priority should be to eliminate the human element from the key management process. By denying anyone direct access to private keys, you limit the danger of theft and make it easier to identify potential compromises.

Enabling end-to-end monitoring is necessary.

What you require is a solution that integrates all aspects of your certifications from various CAs and network security/automation technologies. Dashboards that track expiry and redundancy are quite useful, as are reminders provided to certificate owners before their certificates expire.

If you are a security stakeholder or a member of a Sec/Net/DevOps team that interacts with TLS certificates and keys, it is in your best interest to ensure that your organization follows these standards. Better safe than sorry, as they say, because every single certificate could be that one weak link in an otherwise sound security configuration. Preventing certificate outages is far easier than dealing with them after the fact.

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