Need For Certificate Lifecycle Management (CLM)

Certificate Lifecycle Management describes a complete system to manage all Digital Certificates throughout the complete lifecycle, right from acquisition till the expiration.

Certificate Lifecycle Management

Without any doubt, Certificate lifecycle management is a critical part of any organization’s digital defences: expired certificates or weakly hashed certificates are always an invitation to online hackers, on the other hand, the absence of an SSL lock or SSL certificate on your website will promptly lead to browser warning and to users as well.

Certificate Lifecycle Includes the Following Processes:

  • Generation of keys – both public and private keys and CSR (Certificate Signing Request) using an up-to-date encryption algorithm.
  • Enrollment
  • Certificate installation
  • Certificate renewal
  • Certificate revocation

 

Stages Of Certificate Lifecycle Management:

Certificate lifecycle management is a kind of discipline that has its own set of protocols and mainly focused on 3 things- discovery, management, and monitoring of Digital certificates. Once the digital certificates have been issued, they need to be managed through their entire validity period.

Let’s discuss the seven stages of certificate lifecycle management:
  • Certificate Lifecycle ManagementCertificate Enrollment:

The first stage in certificate lifecycle management is Certificate Enrollment. A user or organization submits a certificate enrollment request to CA (Certificate Authority) which is a trusty third party entity, responsible for issuing and managing security certificates and public keys. After a complete verification of the information provided by the requestor, the CA issues the certificate. This certificate is entitled to be used for a specific purpose.

 

  • Certificate Distribution:

In this stage of certificate lifecycle management, CA distributes the certificate to the user or organization who so ever is the requestor. As it requires management intervention from the CA, this process is considered totally different. In this process, CA sets the policies and shares them with the requestor that might affect the use of the certificate.

 

  • Certificate Validation:

After the certificate has been issued, it is then sent for its validity. The serial number of the certificate is matched against the CRL (Certificate Revocation List) to confirm the operational validity of that certificate.

 

  • Certificate Revocation:

A certificate can be revoked before its expiry. In order to revoke a certificate, CA is instructed to add the serial number of the certificate to its published CRL with the reason for certificate revocation.

 

  • Certificate Renewal:

Every certificate has an expiration date. If a certificate reaches its expiry date, it becomes eligible for renewal. For this, a request for renewal can be made to CA for its renewal. The requestor can either use existing keys or can generate new public or private keys. It is always advisable to use a new set of public and private keys especially when it comes to SSL/TLS certificates.

 

  • Certificate Destruction:

Once the certificate gets expired or no longer in use, it is necessary to destroy it. The certificate along with its shared copies including private keys need to be destroyed. This helps prevent online malicious activity.

 

  • Certificate Auditing:

This stage includes auditing and requires tracking all functions and roles that CA performs, including creation, issuance, expiration, and revocation of the certificate.

 

Importance Of Certificate Lifecycle Management:

With the increase in cybersecurity attacks and security issues, it becomes even more important to have digital security certificates and to have the tools to track & manage your digital certificates effectively and easily. It is a must for all businesses to manage digital certificates across all networks to ensure protection and the prevention of failure. Adopting a lifecycle management system ensures a consistent approach, helps to meet all compliance requirements, and increased efficiency using automation.

Because the certificates have a finite lifespan, they need to be replaced or renewed at the time of their expiry in order to avoid service disruption. If a certificate expires, the vulnerability can be exploited and allow the hackers to gain access to the sensitive information available online. This will not only affect the day-to-day business and brand reputation of an organization but also result in a lack of confidence and trust from the users/customer’s side.

Conclusion:

In the absence of Certificate Lifecycle Management, certificates can be lost in the system, expire, and cause unforeseen disruption. Since these certificates are based on network security and play an important role in internal level trust, why should not we manage them effectively?

With the help of certificate lifecycle management, administrators can monitor their systems & digital certificates continuously with the ability to keep a track of top expirations and renewals to avoid any disruption in services.

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