You have set up your PKI and everything seems to be running smoothly. Is that it? You’re done, right? Not so fast. Have you ever wondered where your certificates are? Have you found yourself in a situation like “Dude, where the heck are my precious certificates?” Venafi is here to help you. Just go through the “How To Check SSL Certificates” guide and we’ll help you answer all your questions.
Your organization is using private and public networks with increasing frequency to communicate sensitive data and complete critical transactions. This means that you need to have greater confidence in the identity of the person, computer, or service on the other end of the communication. Digital certificates are electronic credentials that are used to certify the identities of individuals, computers, and other entities on a network. That’s why we call them machine identities. Digital certificates and public key encryption identify machines provide an enhanced level of authentication and privacy to digital communications.
But as your network grows, it may be harder to keep track of all the new machine identities that you are using. Many organizations might be surprised to discover how many TLS certificates they actually have. A large- or medium-scale enterprise may have thousands or even hundreds of thousands of certificates, each identifying a specific server in their environment. This is because organizations use TLS not only to secure external connections between themselves and their customers over the internet but also to establish trust between different machines inside their own organization and thereby secure internal communications.
All digital certificates have a finite lifespan and are no longer recognized as valid upon expiration. Certificates may have varying periods of validity based on company policy and/or cost considerations. Minimally, certificates need to be replaced at the end of their life. Otherwise, they will expire and cause a service disruption and decreased security. No one wants to deal with the aftermath of a certificate outage. That being said, there may also be several scenarios where a certificate needs to be replaced earlier (e.g., Heartbleed bug, SHA-1 end-of-life migration, company mergers change in company policy).
Even though TLS certificates are critical to the security of both internet-facing and private web services, many organizations do not have the ability to effectively monitor and manage their certificates. This lack of an effective certificate management service increases your attack surface and puts your organization at risk because once certificates are deployed, they require regular monitoring and maintenance. Organizations that improperly manage their certificates risk system outages and security breaches, which can result in revenue loss, harm to reputation, and exposure of confidential data to attackers.
The mission critical risks that organizations face due to poor certificate management may include:
- Application outages caused by expired TLS server certificates
- Hidden intrusion, exfiltration, disclosure of sensitive data, or other attacks resulting from encrypted threats or server impersonation
- Disaster-recovery risk that requires the rapid replacement of large numbers of certificates and private keys in response to either certificate authority compromise or discovery of vulnerabilities in cryptographic algorithms or libraries
Consequently, managing and protecting SSL/TLS certificates across complex networks to ensure protection and prevent unanticipated failures is a requirement for all businesses. Employing a lifecycle management system ensures a consistent approach and allows for the use of automation, which increases the efficiency and effectiveness of certificate management. It is very important to highlight the importance of having valid certificates. It is therefore highly advisable that you renew certificates close to expiring—in a timely manner. Do not wait until the very last moment to do so.
Having visibility into your certificates is the cornerstone for a successful certificate management program. “If you don’t have that visibility, you won’t know how to tell when an anomaly happens. Visibility dovetails into the operational aspects of knowing when certificates are going to expire and making sure they are renewed—and managed overall,” says John Graham, CISO of EBSCO. Visibility is no longer a "nice to have”, it is a “must have.”
To address TLS server certificate risks, your organization should establish and maintain clear visibility across all TLS server certificates in your environment so you can perform the following actions:
- Detect potential vulnerabilities (e.g., the use of weak algorithms, such as SHA-1)
- Identify certificates that are nearing expiration and replace them
- Respond to large-scale cryptographic incidents, such as a CA compromise, vulnerable algorithms, and cryptographic library bugs
- Ensure compliance with regulatory guidelines and established organizational policy
You can achieve this visibility by maintaining an inventory of all TLS server certificates. A single central inventory is recommended, as it minimizes the possibility of overlooking critical TLS server certificates.
Venafi can help you alleviate the burden of identifying your certificates. Just follow the step-by-step procedures described in the “How To Check SSL Certificates” guide, and you will no longer wonder yourself “Dude, where the heck are my certificates?”