Digital certificates are electronic identification protocols used to check the identities of web users, computers, and other members of a network. Due to their purpose and function, digital certificates work like the traditional ID card, driver’s license, and passport.
For instance, the respective authorities issue passports or IDs after verifications of an individual. Likewise, it takes certification authorities (CAs) to issue digital certificates. These certificates enable the issuing authorities to authenticate all the users of a particular network or digital infrastructure, preventing intruders from gaining access.
Since the number of users on today’s networks is so large, such systems require adequate support and coordination. Certificate Lifecycle Management systems (CLM/CLMS), also known as Certificate Management Systems, are the systems that offer this needed support.
Their Primary Purpose
CLM/CLMS primarily enables admins to organize the various aspects of the lifecycle for a particular certificate while having a broader understanding of the state of the entire network. Therefore, they are instrumental in the successful management of digital certificates.
Hence, organizations thinking about deploying digital certificates need to seriously consider using certificate lifecycle management services to ensure a robust infrastructure for their enterprise network. But suffice it to note that your certificate lifecycle management solution will include different stages.
These stages help ensure the automated authentication and safety of sensitive data being transferred across the network. They also form the framework that enables system managers to maintain the smooth operation of networks.
The section below discusses the top six stages.
1. Certificate Enrollment
This is the first and perhaps most crucial stage of the certificate lifecycle. It’s the initial point where users send requests to the relevant CA. It’s usually a collaborative process between the CA and the user, the PKI software like a web browser or email client. The request to enroll comes with the public key and enrollment information.
As soon as a user send a certificate request, this triggers a verification process on the part of the CA depending on set policies and rules. The CA creates the digital certificate, puts up the certificate, and passes an authentication certificate to the user.
The CA also determines the policies that regulate how the requesters can use the certificate during the process of distributing the certificate.
2. Certificate Validation
During the use of a certificate, there is the need to check the status of the certificate. This enables the system to verify whether that specific certificate is operationally valid or not. In the validation process, the CA carries out a series of checks to find out the current status of the certificate.
These checks will establish whether the certificate is found in its Certificate Revocation List (CRL). Certificates located in this list are there for a reason and need to be revoked.
3. Certificate Revocation
Every time a certificate authority issues a certificate, it comes with an expiration date. This date determines the duration of the certificate’s validity. If a particular certificate requires revocation before its expiration date, the CA will receive an instruction to include it in the Certificate Revocation List (CRL).
Some instances in which a certificate may require revocation are when the certificate becomes compromised or lost. Also, the user issued with the certificate will no longer work with your organization; you may need to revoke or add their certificates to the CRL to deny further access to your network.
4. Certificate Renewal
When a certificate reaches its expiry date, two things can happen to it. As already stated, it could go into the CRL. On the other hand, it can undergo renewal if the user will have to continue using it.
This process is usually set to occur automatically as long as the certificate policy authorizes it. But user intervention can also cause certificate renewal if the policies of the CA don’t allow automated certificate renewal. During the renewal, it’s necessary to choose between the creation of new private and public keys.
5. Certificate Destruction
Once a certificate goes out of use, archives, backup copies, and original copies of the certificate have become useless. However, they can potentially compromise security in the wrong hands. Therefore, it’s crucial to destroy them, along with any private key connected with them. So this stage is the point where every expired or revoked certificate and their respective keys is destroyed.
6. Certificate Auditing
Certificate auditing is the process through which the certificate management system tracks the creation, expiry, and revocation of certificates issued by the CA. It may also involve monitoring every instance of successful use of certificates. Thus, this stage continuously checks for breaches, compromises, and expiration of certificates so the system can always take the right action for each certificate.
Cybersecurity is a major concern for any business having an online presence. A security breach may cost millions with the increasing use of private and public networks to complete business transactions. Meanwhile, stats show a 600 percent rise in cybercrime since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Therefore, a comprehensive and reliable certificate lifecycle management solution will be essential to cover your SSL/TLS security vulnerabilities. Such a solution can streamline your security protocols across your entire enterprise, so you don’t have to worry about the ever-increasing threat of a cyberattack and its consequences.