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Blog Post Jun 04, 2024

The importance of Crypto Agility in preventing certificate-related outages

Digital certificates play a vital role in driving today's powerful system of identity-based security — from securing online communications and transactions to digitally signing software and much more.

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However, these certificates are not without risks and challenges. Chief among these: the inevitable certificate expiration, which can leave otherwise secure organizations vulnerable to devastating outages.

As cyber threats grow more sophisticated — and as certificate lifespans continue to shrink — it is increasingly evident that other advanced strategies will also come into play.

Especially important in this new era of cybersecurity? A concept known as crypto agility. This concept is about ensuring an organization's agility and resilience in the face of rapidly changing technological landscapes and threat environments.Crypto agility promises to enhance security posture, but it is not always easy to achieve. Keep reading to learn why crypto agility is crucial and how it can help prevent certificate-related outages.

Understanding crypto agility

Cryptographic agility determines how quickly and effectively cryptographic procedures can adapt to new algorithms while maintaining high continuity for cybersecurity infrastructure. This means that these systems must be designed to facilitate swift and seamless transitions without damaging the overall security posture of the enterprise in question.

This is a must in light of the quickly evolving digital landscape, in which quantum computing promises to dramatically accelerate not only the pace of analytics-driven problem-solving but also the evolution of digital risks.

Quantum-ready cryptographic standards, for example, are designed to withstand the impending challenges of quantum attacks, in which unprecedented computing power could potentially be leveraged to overcome RSA and other cryptographic strategies that have proven sufficient in the past.

Post-Quantum Cryptography (PQC) is a must, and, while this will rely heavily on lattice-based schemes, crypto agility will prepare organizations to adapt swiftly to emerging — and highly sophisticated — threats. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is at the forefront of this effort and has recently unveiled multiple quantum-resistant cryptographic algorithms.

One of the most disruptive, and common, issues that arises when enterprises haven’t yet achieved crypto agility is certificate outages. The costs associated with this type of issue can be devastating for businesses.

Download our latest infographic with a list of recent outages that have made the headlines

Thankfully, there's a silver lining: while the consequences of certificate-related outages can be significant, these outages are preventable. By implementing advanced automated solutions, like Certificate Lifecycle Management (CLM), which provides a highly visible solution for preventing certificate expiration through automating each step of the lifecycle process, enterprises can streamline certificate management while also moving towards the ultimate goal of crypto agility.

Benefits of crypto agility

Crypto agility and CLM is a crucial part of the ongoing effort to avoid certificate-related outages. There are many reasons to adopt a crypto-agile stance, but one of the most important is right in the name: this approach facilitates exceptional agility, which is a must in today's quickly-changing digital landscape. Noteworthy benefits of crypto agility include:

  • Swift adaptations to evolving cryptographic standards and algorithms. It can be difficult to keep up with the fast pace of cryptographic changes, but crypto-agile solutions remove some of the burden. These solutions have many use cases but, in general, are designed to promote an agile approach to meeting emerging demands in a new era of cybersecurity.

  • Promptly replace outdated certificates. In the event of expiration, crypto-agile systems like automated CLM make it easier to renew certificates in a timely manner. This limits the likelihood of suffering significant service disruptions and downtime. This approach can also facilitate prompt responses to compromised certificates.

  • Enhanced security posture. In general, crypto agility initiatives play heavily into improving an enterprise’s overall security posture. A strong security posture is crucial for avoiding or combating key risks and, while many elements play into security posture, crypto agility plays an increasingly central role in this overarching effort.

Strategies for achieving crypto agility

Automated certificate lifecycle management is a necessary component to achieving crypto agility. It helps to form a good foundation for a modern security setup and is especially crucial for achieving reliable outage prevention. Advanced CLM solutions provide a reliable approach to automating the full lifespan of all digital certificates within an enterprise ecosystem, from provisioning to renewal to revocation. This delivers much-needed efficiency, moving away from the time-consuming manual processes of yesteryear.

CLM plays into crypto agility through the power of certificate agility, which is a concept that refers to an organization’s ability to easily update digital certificates. To achieve genuine certificate agility, organizations must ensure that all certificates are not only known and current,but also easily replaceable.

The path to certificate agility begins with automated and centralized CLM, which offers a streamlined approach to key digital certificate processes and also provides in-depth insights to ensure that any emerging issues can be quickly addressed — and that, when needed, certificates can be promptly adjusted.

Upon achieving total certificate agility, organizations should be well on the way to securing crypto agility as well. Because crypto agility is a more comprehensive concept, however, there are other best practices to consider implementing. These may include the following:

  • Develop a cryptographic strategy. A comprehensive strategy is a must. This should begin with setting objectives but should also involve policies that promote high-level cryptographic practices.

  • Enforce policies. Once policies and guidelines have been developed, they must be strictly enforced. This means keeping all vendors and partners in the loop — and ensuring that they follow the rules.

  • Complete a cryptographic inventory. Which cryptographic components are present? A thorough inventory should reveal critical components while also helping to prioritize the protection of these elements.

  • Improve PKI. Public key infrastructure forms a solid foundation for enabling agile cryptographic practices. Automated solutions and especially targeted PKI services can be helpful for promoting business continuity.

  • Update incident response plans. In the worst-case scenario, it is important to understand how cryptographic algorithms and protocol adjustments come into play. These essentials should be built into incident response and disaster recovery plans. Don't forget to implement backup solutions to limit the potential for costly disruptions.

  • Conduct regular security audits. Even the most robust and reliable cryptographic infrastructures may hold room for improvement. This is best achieved by completing security audits on a regular basis, as these can provide valuable insight into ongoing weaknesses and vulnerabilities that need to be addressed.

Improve crypto agility with Sectigo

Crypto agility will play a key role in navigating the post-quantum era. Any steps that can be taken to promote crypto agility in the present could prove highly influential for combating future threats. Throughout this journey, the powerful role of robust CLM will become abundantly clear.

At the forefront of the wide scale effort to achieve crypto agility, Sectigo is committed to providing the advanced tools and technologies needed to maintain an optimal security posture. Sectigo Certificate Manager (SCM) is a powerful CA agnostic platform built to manage the lifecycles of all your public and private certificates.

Another way to be proactive in protecting yourself from quantum risks; quantum-safe hybrid SSL certificates. Built on a system of lattice-based processes, this emerging cryptosystem promises powerful protection against the most significant cyber risks of tomorrow.

If you're ready to take the next step towards achieving both certificate agility and crypto agility, start with a free trial of the Sectigo Certificate Manager (SCM). Explore Sectigo Quantum Labs if you want to learn more about the future of crypto agility.

Want to learn more? Get in touch to book a demo of Sectigo Certificate Manager!