The public key infrastructure (PKI) is the most effective strategy for securing communications between machines—network systems, mobile devices, virtual servers and the IoT—whether inside or outside the corporate boundaries. As the volume of machines, devices and network endpoints grows, so does the need for machine identities and the complexity of PKI management. As a result, the manual management of machine identities—cryptographic keys and digital certificates—throughout their lifecycle becomes unreliable. To secure the sensitive data and defend against various data breach attacks in this rapidly growing environment, it’s important that organizations understand how to safely scale their PKI. This has led many—but not all—organizations to move to automated solutions.
Many organizations prefer to stick to old-fashioned, handcrafted manual processes for managing all their digital identities and certificates. Although there are only a handful of cloud-based PKI solutions that are delivered as a service, certain misperceptions are keeping organizations from adopting these solutions. These misperceptions can be summarized as follows.
Businesses are looking to automate their PKI to enhance the management of their certificate lifecycles and provide increased security for their highly sensitive data. There are three benefits identified with a shift towards PKI automation.
A robust platform for machine identity management is the most effective way to automate your certificate lifecycles. However, there are also certain tools that you can use to increase the use of automation within your PKI, depending on your organization’s requirements.
REST API integration
One of the most common ways of automating your PKI is using REST API provided that your Certificate Authority (CA) supports API integration. You can integrate the API into your PKI either from scratch by developing your own scripts for making API calls or through leveraging existing tools.
Simple Certificate Enrollment Protocol (SCEP)
SCEP is an open-source certificate management protocol that is supported by most operating systems such as Android, Microsoft Windows, Linux, iOS and other major OSes. This option requires a SCEP agent on the device and works in concurrence with your enterprise device management tools.
Enrollment over Secure Transport (EST)
EST is an enhancement to SCEP and provides the additional feature of supporting Elliptic Curve Cryptography (ECC). Although both SCEP and EST automate the certificate enrollment process, the difference is that SCEP uses Shared Secret protocol and CSRs for enrolling certificates, whereas EST uses TLS for authentication.
Automated Certificate Management Environment (ACME)
ACME is a protocol for automating the certificate lifecycle management processes between Certificate Authorities (CAs) and a company’s PKI-supported systems—web servers, email systems, and machines. The ACME protocol is more effective for managing and scaling the enterprise certificate and machine identity needs; hence it has become the preferred method for PKI automation by many organizations.
No organization is immune from the need to implement effective and reliable certificate lifecycle management. It is a critical function underpinning all digital transformation initiatives that is challenging to execute manually. Digital certificates provide effective and robust PKI-based security to enable the creation of trusted machine identities. Making sure these certificates are managed effectively and efficiently can be a pain point for organizations that do not understand the benefits of automated certificate lifecycle management and how best to implement it.
Organizations that leverage cloud-based PKI services with strong emphasis on automating certificate lifecycle management are better equipped to increase their security posture. Venafi Trust Protection Platform operates as an ACME server that supports automated certificate enrollment and installation with the added benefit of global visibility and machine identity intelligence. If you want to learn more, contact the experts.