Microsoft is a trusted partner for some of the world’s largest enterprises – providing the software, and now cloud services, they use to build and run their businesses. Unfortunately, like so many other enterprises have learned, failed key and certificate management put a dent in special trust Microsoft enjoys. During last week’s unplanned Azure outage, Microsoft and its customers learned that it only takes a single oversight, in this case an expiring digital certificate, to bring down a service that tens thousands of customers rely on for almost half a day.
“Microsoft is by no means alone. A single, overlooked SSL certificate that expires unexpectedly or one that isis not installed properly can cause failures on mission-critical systems and applications. Cloud providers should thank Microsoft for highlighting how critical key and certificate management has become. As part of its response, Microsoft is “expanding monitoring of certificates expiration” and “will improve the detection of future expiring certificates deployed in production.” Having a current and complete SSL key and certificate inventory is the first step in a continuous process of preventing key and certificate managements that breach trust.
How many enterprises face the same challenges? According to new Ponemon Institute research on Global 2000 organizations, over half of all enterprises don’t have an accurate inventory of their keys and certificates. On average Global 2000 organizations have over 17,000 keys and digital certificates deployed. It’s easy to see why errors and oversights like the one with Microsoft Azure happen every day around the world.
Establishing systems and processes to automate the renewal and lifecycle management for keys and certificates isn’t just about preventing unplanned outage, lost revenue, and reputation damage.
In his keynote presentation at the RSA Conference 2013, Scott Charney, Corporate Vice Present of Trustworthy Computing at Microsoft, declared “PKI (Public Key Infrastructure) is under attack” by cybercriminals and all organizations need to better manage their keys and certificates. Ponemon research revealed attacks on keys and certificate management are exposing enterprises to potentially hundreds of millions of dollars in losses. Even more troubling, attacks on SSH (Secure Shell) are now viewed as most troubling by enterprise IT managers. SSH is the technology used by Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services, and other cloud service providers to establish trust and control.
There simply is no reason for organizations to fall victim to what happened to Microsoft and hundreds of other organizations each and every day. There are numerous resources available to help organizations establish processes and systems to maintain their control over trust that’s established by cryptographic keys and digital certificates. These resources include:
- The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and Venafi's "Preparing for and Responding to Certification Authority Compromise and Fraudulent Certificate Issuance."
- The National Institute of Standards and Technology's (NIST), "Key Management Recommendations."
- UK Information Commissioners Office (ICO), Guidance on the use of cloud computing.