Back in the day, it was a little simpler to keep track of your keys and certificates. There were fewer people involved in the process. And you could run a pretty tight PKI using a spreadsheet or SharePoint site. You may even have developed some custom scripts to make things even easier. But now times have changed. HTTPS Everywhere and DevOps efforts radically increase the number of people who need access to certificates. And as you move to the cloud, you are spinning up machines many times a day—and each one requires unique keys and certificates to validate their machine identities.
At first glance, it would seem that you could use your certificate authority (CA) dashboard to make sense of all of your growing number of certificates. But, sadly, it’s not that easy. Like most large organizations, yours is probably sourcing certificates from a number of internal and external CAs. (Plus, given the availability of free or low-cost certificates, you may have CAs that aren’t on your radar.) And while the tools that CAs provide are indeed quite useful (certainly a step up from the manual or homegrown methods that many organizations have used), they will only give you data on the certificates that are issued by that particular CA.
In this scenario, you may end up splitting your management efforts between dashboards and you’ll never get a centralized view of all your machine identities (unless, of course, you put all your eggs in one basket and consolidate certificates onto one CA). But even if you do that, these CA tools may not tell you where all of your unique certificates are installed. So if you’re hit by an outage caused by an expired certificate, you’ll be hard-pressed to locate and replace it in short order. The same goes for certificates with weak, out-of-date or compromised cryptography. In all of these situations, you’ll need to be able to act quickly to minimize the impact. Better yet, you’ll have taken steps to proactively avoid these situations altogether.
The bottom line is that you need to deploy certificate management that supports your specific business strategy (rather than building your business strategy around your certificate management.) When looking for a certificate management solution that delivers on the promise of maximum flexibility and control, here are five questions you should ask:
To maximize business agility, look for certificate management that allows you to actively manage all your certificates from a single console. You won’t tie your organization’s security posture to any single CA vendor. Plus, you’ll be equipped to implement consistent security policies across all machine identities and deliver audit-ready reports and documentation about your company-wide key and certificate management program.