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The enterprise case for smart certificate management

Certificates are notoriously hard to manage...

Digital fraud has never been more prevalent, with reports suggesting it could potentially cost the world $10.5 trillion USD annually by 2025. Going forward, the question of how we effectively and securely verify the identity of humans and machines and enable their online activity in a safe manner is one of the fundamental issues of the digital era, writes Nick France, CTO, Sectigo

Despite growing awareness of this issue, enterprises are facing mounting challenges that make seamless implementation of identity security difficult. Excited by what digital transformation can provide, many are taking the leap to modernisation without safeguarding new and improved systems.

While the number of digital services using identity verification is on the rise, without the correct understanding of the technology required, specifically digital certificates, enterprises will continue to face high risks.

More Identities, More Risks

As the world around us becomes more connected through widening networks and digital environments, this also creates complexity and risk. Hybrid work and digitalisation have skyrocketed the amount of machine and human identities connecting to our networks, and also the chance that one of these identities is compromised by bad actors. Digital certificates, the glue holding together the safety of our online infrastructure, are growing in accordance with this identity boom. The more identities in an ecosystem, the more certificates needed to verify them.

Although certificates offer the safety net many enterprises are looking for, they are notoriously hard to manage. Constantly expiring and requiring renewal, many unprepared organisations are still managing this vital utility with outdated manual means. While 10 years ago it may have been possible to track an organization’s certificates in a spreadsheet, the number of certificates in a modern business makes this unfeasible.

See also: 7 free cybersecurity tools CISOs should have on their radar

If a certificate inventory is not managed properly, it becomes highly vulnerable to outages, and security breaches. It was only recently that Microsoft had to fix a Windows 11 problem caused by an expired digital certificate. If giants like Microsoft can fall victim to poor certificate management, it’s patently obvious that enterprises need to pave the way for total, automated Certificate Lifecycle Management (CLM).

Enterprises and partners today need a solution that can understand their challenges and allow them to flexibly and painlessly manage the certificates in their organisation. However, many existing certificate management solutions fall short of these needs.

Thinking Smart

If the modern enterprise is to make use of certificates as the golden standard for securing corporate data online, they need to think smarter. First and foremost, automation is critical to this. If certificate management is smartly automated, it can track things such as expiration dates, notify IT professionals when they’re approaching, and replace them without any manual labour from already overstretched IT teams.

However, while automation can alleviate some cybersecurity challenges, the complexity of certificate management doesn't end there. Unfortunately, the Certificate Authorities (CAs) that issue certificates have historically been reluctant to work together, meaning even the most sophisticated CLM solutions on the market cannot oversee the multitude of different CA-issued certificates in an organisation. Adding to this, organisations often have their own internal CAs frequently forgotten about, or left unmanaged, until the day a missed expiry causes an outage. This leaves businesses with no true method to achieve total smart certificate management.

However, the latest innovations within the sector are bringing much-needed hope. Many eyes are now focussed on platforms that are certificate agnostic. Being ‘certificate agnostic’ means that a solution allows businesses to manage every certificate in their organisation, no matter what CA it came from, without siloed approaches. With a smart solution like this, enterprises can automate the issuance and management of all certificates, from both publicly trusted and existing private CAs.

Implementing this smarter form of certificate management can help modern enterprises with a variety of use cases, such as:

  • Enterprise email security
  • Securing DevOps containers & code
  • Key management in public cloud
  • Secure application development
  • Securing web server & load balancers
  • Digital identity management for zero trust

Smart certificate management: charging forward

In today’s world of sophisticated hackers, one minor slip is enough to let the bad guys in. If enterprises are to truly ensure the complete security of all digital identities within their vast networks, they must take action now. Enterprises need to think smart. While certificates are crucial today, the trends in hybrid working, smart devices, and digital transformation are only going to increase this importance. The cryptographic encryptions at the heart of security certificates are still far and away the best method to secure human and machine identities. A cybersecurity strategy that puts smart CLM at its heart will put businesses in good stead for whatever the future brings.

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