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Certificate Management for Multi-Cloud Environments

Certificate Management for Multi-Cloud Environments

November 25, 2020 | Anastasios Arampatzis

Cloud transformation and the ever-changing nature of cloud infrastructure are making certificate management for individual and machine identities a big challenge.

It’s cloudy weather

According to the Thales Data Threat Report 2020, of all the organizations surveyed, half of the overall organizational data (50%) is now stored on cloud environments. 47% of all participating organizations confirmed that they experienced a data breach or failed a compliance audit during the past year.

Companies are using multi-cloud environments in each category of Software as a Service (SaaS), Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), and Platform as a Service (PaaS). Below are the statistics from the survey:

  • More than one IaaS vendor – 81% of the participants
  • More than one PaaS vendor – 81% of the participants
  • Managing more than 100 SaaS apps – 11% of the participants

All the businesses who are using multiple cloud environments have some data in the cloud which is unencrypted. This raises a serious concern regarding data security and creates a credible threat for data privacy compliance violations in accordance with General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), and PCI DSS. To avoid outages and vulnerable situations, organizations should opt for encryption in the cloud.

In addition, with business boundaries blurring, organizations can no longer rely on traditional perimeter security policies, which place trust on whoever or whichever device is located within the premises. Leveraging a Zero Trust security mindset requires a robust identity management program that will ensure both the security of the corporate data in the cloud and the authenticity of people and machines requesting access to this data.

The many IAM challenges of multi-cloud environments

Because of the adoption of multi-cloud solutions and the proliferation of containers, microservices and IoT devices, machine identities are growing exponentially, faster than human ones. This explosion of machine identities creates potential security gaps in managing these identities across multiple cloud platforms.

Despite public cloud service providers offering identity and access management (IAM) tools, none of their solutions can scale beyond their own platforms. Businesses are concerned about the level of identity and certificate management for many reasons:

  • Public cloud provider’s IAM tools are lagging in the protection of machine identities and their related digital certificates, increasing the respective threat surface. Further, while these cloud-native tools provide privileged access to humans and machines, businesses cannot monitor and audit what these individuals or machines do.
  • Each public cloud providers’ approach to identity and access management is only reliable in a purely homogenous cloud environment based entirely on their cloud platform. This approach creates security holes and consistency problems when businesses are embracing multi-cloud environments and are required to manage certificates across multiple platforms.

There is no standardized process for managing certificates and credentials across virtual machines and services from multiple cloud providers. Enterprise security teams are forced to duplicate efforts across each platform they rely on for running their business.

The benefits of a vendor-agnostic certificate management solution

Cloud-native solutions lack the capacity and scale to fully address the challenging and complex areas of certificate management in hybrid or multi-cloud environments. Organizations need to establish a vendor-agnostic platform, like Venafi Trust Protection Platform, that can enforce access controls for multi-cloud environments based on identity. Employing such a solution, certificate management across multi-cloud environments can be improved in many ways.

Automate access management.

Automating access control for human and machine identities can help solve the problems caused by the ephemeral nature of multi-cloud. The scalable and changing nature of cloud and DevOps environments requires certificate management automation to reduce risk, enable machines to protect themselves and increase productivity. Automation can help businesses move beyond risky and weak passwords and delegate credentials in a frictionless and transparent manner, integrating security into agile DevOps processes.

Scale and support machine identities.

Standardizing certificate management based on a cloud-agnostic solution makes it easier to scale up and support machine identities while gaining greater usability and less vendor lock-in. By choosing a cloud-based platform, like Venafi Trust Protection Platform, to centrally manage machine identities, businesses can integrate multiple public cloud architectures while securing human and machine identities. The provision of a central certificate management solution not only helps effectively manage machine identities, but it also can provide insight to security teams to analyze access patterns in real-time and thwart potential breaches.

Resilience and stability.

Having the ability to automate certificate management and privileged access across multiple cloud platforms enhances corporate resiliency and stability to identity-based multi-cloud environments. A single dashboard that provides administrators with control over on-premises and cloud certificates is the right step towards an identity-centric Zero Trust security model.


Organizations are faced with increasingly complex cloud infrastructures that are amplifying gaps in certificate management between the various platforms. Using a centralized, vendor-agnostic certificate management solution, like Venafi Trust Protection Platform, can help businesses close these gaps and prevent outages caused by expired or compromised certificates while enforcing security policies in the DevOps pipeline. As the future of work relies on a remote workforce and demands for even more cloud, employee and resource flexibility increase, the need for a unified cloud-based approach to certificate management becomes a must-have.

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About the author

Anastasios Arampatzis
Anastasios Arampatzis

Anastasios Arampatzis is a retired Hellenic Air Force officer with over 20 years of experience in evaluating cybersecurity and managing IT projects. He works as an informatics instructor at AKMI Educational Institute, while his interests include exploring the human side of cybersecurity.

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