Certificate lifecycle management (CLM) is a critical requirement for organizations. In the past we’ve talked about the need for CLM due to CA sprawl and concerns around legacy PKI, and it being a means to rein that in and centralize certificates across environments. We also know that the number of machine identities are on the rise and in addition to the sheer number of machine identities that need to be managed, they also bring complexities – such as short-life certificates – that make manual processes unsustainable.
While those are excellent reasons to invest in a proper CLM tool, let’s talk a bit more about the role of CLM in relation to overall IT strategy – like implementing Zero Trust and preparing for post-quantum.
Digital certificates provide identity to people and machines, such as mobile devices, virtual machines, and IoT devices. Those certificates need to be issued by a PKI/certificate authority, which will then be able to verify that thing and give it access, whether that’s allowing someone access to your network, or servers talking to one another.
The part where CLM comes in as an important component of your overall Zero Trust strategy is in making sure you have strong issuance protection for your certificates. Essentially making sure no rogue certificates get issued giving too much access or privilege. This same reasoning applies to the need for control at any stage in the lifecycle of a certificate, like revocation.
Going one step further, here’s how CLM helps enforce the principles of Zero Trust:
- Verify Explicitly – Making sure the right certificate is provisioned to the correct endpoint/target
- Least Privilege – Providing the right assurance and access/privilege, by picking the correct certificate and lifecycle controls to be able to issue and manage it
- Assume Breach – The ability to contain an attack and limit the loss and damage by revoking certificates (incident response)
When it comes to post-quantum preparedness, there is a looming threat to existing cryptography, which means organizations need to take steps today to prepare for the migration to quantum-safe cryptography. One of the first steps in that preparation is to have visibility into your cryptographic assets – from hardware and software to keys, certificates, and secrets.
Here are a few ways CLM can help:
- Inventory. With robust discovery capabilities, CLM tools can help centralize the visibility of certificates across environments, from different certification authorities, so you know what credentials you have and where.
- Identify Weak Cryptography. Is your cryptography up to date? Do you have hard-coded algorithms? Are you crypto-agile? The right tools can identity any risks you might have with your cryptography so you can remediate in advance of preparing for the migration to post-quantum cryptography (PQC).
- Consolidation. Going back to a core use of CLM – reining in the CA sprawl – it can be a tool to help migrate and consolidate your PKI footprint, making the transition to PQC much easier.
- Automation. With the growth in the number of certificates organizations are managing, and the complexities of IT landscapes, organizations are looking for automation. There’s too much to manage and it’s too great of a risk to not have, making it a necessity. Pairing that with the migration challenge of PQC, automation will be a key ingredient to successful implementations.
Whether for the practical reasons of ensuring you have visibility and control over your environments, or for the more strategic reasons of implementing Zero Trust and preparing for post-quantum, make sure you’re using the right CLM tool alongside your PKI to ensure a secure future.