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Blog Post Mar 13, 2024

Proliferation of digital identities: increase in digital certificates

Digital identities are crucial in today's virtual landscape. For businesses, secure verification with digital certificates is essential. Trust is eroding, but automated certificate lifecycle management is a solution.

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Digital identities & certificates are on the rise: why & how to manage?

Digital identities determine how we navigate today's virtual environments and what we expect from the online landscape of tomorrow. The very concept of identification itself has come a long way in a few short years, shifting from the government-issued driver’s licenses and ID cards of yesteryear to biometric data, facial recognition, and beyond.

In the context of businesses, a digital identity represents a collection of authenticated credentials that verify a user's authorization to access online resources or networks. Digital identities are also used identifying each component within a system or network, including mobile devices, web servers, DevOps containers, and more.

No matter how identification is verified, doing so in a secure way is a must for participating in the contemporary digital ecosystem, especially for enterprise business organizations managing an increasing number of digital identities.

Beyond the practical components of digital identity, the importance of trust must be considered. Unfortunately, while it has long been recognized as crucial for establishing rapport and encouraging users to engage, digital trust is suffering a precipitous erosion, as referenced by the World Economic Forum (WEF) and its Digital Trust Initiative.

The WEF defines digital trust as the "expectation that digital technologies and services – and the organizations providing them – will protect all stakeholders’ interests and uphold societal expectations and values."

The proliferation of digital identities brings new challenges to organizations looking to establish this sense of trust, but a few tried-and-tested solutions promise to bridge the gap.

An instrumental tool that organizations of all sizes utilize to verify identities is the tried and tested digital certificate. The reliance on these digital certificates has become an integral part of building and maintaining our trust-centric digital world. Organizations are currently having to manage tens if not thousands of digital certificates at a time, which presents an added layer of IT complexity that can have negative operational and fiscal effects on any organization. Streamlining the management of digital certificates with the use of an automated certificate lifecycle management solution is becoming a necessity.

Increased complexity of IT environments

It would be an understatement to refer to today's enterprise IT architectures and environments as complex. Encompassing an increasingly wide array of devices and remote employees — not to mention the nuances of cloud and hybrid setups — these setups call for nuanced and layered security systems, along with effective strategies for facilitating trust.

Add numerous operating systems, software solutions, and apps to the mix, and it's easy to see why even the most skilled enterprise IT teams are struggling to keep up.

These challenges are further influenced by expanding digital identity management needs. Hence, the rise of disciplines such as Identity and Access Management (IAM), which draw on numerous technologies and processes to ensure that the right people and organizations are able to access the right resources safely and securely. Fundamental challenges accompany every area of information technology, including, most notably, identity management.

Proliferation of digital identities

The present-day complexities of identity management stem, in part, from the sheer proliferation of digital identities. These are too numerous for the average person to conceive, although estimates suggest that over 3 billion people have used various digital identity systems or solutions. What's more, the rates of digital identification are rapidly rising, if research highlighted by the World Bank’s ID4D database is any indication.

Many factors have contributed to this increase in digital identities. The pandemic has arguably played a sizable role, spurring a shift to remote or hybrid work and otherwise sparking enterprise businesses to have a greater reliance on digital interactions that may call for identity verification.

Even without the influence of the pandemic and the remote work revolution, however, we would have still seen a rapid escalation of digital identification, simply given the realities of global digital transformation. As digital solutions are integrated into an ever-increasing range of business functions, it is clear that digital identities form, as PwC claims, "the key to transformation."

This could have huge implications for future security initiatives. IT governance association ISACA refers to digital identification as the "new security perimeter," which will bridge the gaps formed by the once-dominant models that relied on physical and logical boundaries. Identity-based systems allow for a more agile approach to cybersecurity, forming what ISACA refers to as a "common denominator across location-agnostic access points, devices, and networks."

Increased need for digital certificates

Digital certificates have long played a critical role in boosting security and establishing trust — and that is certainly not about to change especially with the increased number of use cases. While ISACA references a comprehensive array of strategies that can play into the new digital identity security perimeter — chief among them, multi-factor authentication (MFA) and single sign-on (SSO) — these strategies will only go so far if not accompanied by other effective identity solutions.

Digital certificates play a powerful role in promoting effective digital identification, but there is no denying that the process of obtaining and managing these can be challenging. An astounding 81 percent of IT executives specifically noted this challenge in a 2021 Sectigo research study. Commonly cited concerns include:

  • Constant certificate renewals. Google's Moving Forward, Together roadmap reveals that the validity period for TLS certificates will likely soon drop from 398 days to a mere 90 days. It is impossible to overstate the impact that this will have on certificate lifecycle management. Simply put, certificate renewals will be required more often, and, with more certificates circulating in the first place, this will bring the sheer volume of renewals to unprecedented levels.

  • Time-consuming certificate management process. Enterprise organizations won’t be the only ones impacted by validity period drops; with less resources overall, SMBs may struggle to keep up with these frequent, time-consuming processes. If this is handled in-house, staff members may be forced to dedicate more time to dealing with certificates and less time focusing on other important matters.

  • The risk of non-renewal. As the pace of certificate renewal picks up, it becomes easier to miss key deadlines and to allow certificates to expire. This can lead to outages, which, in turn, can prompt many consequences including reputational damage, cybersecurity breaches, compliance issues, and even fines, to name a few.

Ineffective certificate discovery. Many businesses still use manual processes for the SSL/TLS certificate discovery process. If non-renewals and certificate expirations become more prevalent, however, once reliable manual certificate discovery procedures will simply not be trustworthy.

How an automated certificate lifecycle management system can help

Today's digital identity challenges can be overcome, but it will require businesses to shift their approach to certificate management. The haphazard strategies of yesterday must be replaced by comprehensive, reliable solutions.

This is where a Certificate Lifecycle Management (CLM) platform can prove transformative. Capable of automating the full certificate lifespan, automated CLM provides increased confidence in the installation, monitoring, and renewal of digital certificates.

Critical components include end-to-end lifecycle management and seamless integration with numerous technology providers. Interoperability will ensure that CLM proves impactful across numerous environments and amongst many use cases.

Research from Sectigo indicates that, when implemented correctly, it can spark a myriad of benefits, such as:

  • Higher system availability

  • Improved access to information on demand

  • Dramatic improvements in compliance

Secure and manage your digital identities with Sectigo

As digital identities and certificates continue to proliferate — and as certificate lifespans shrink — effective certificate management will become vital. Whether to bring an automated approach to certificate management is no longer the question — choosing the right certificate manager tool is crucial.

Sectigo Certificate Manager (SCM) promises to bring a streamlined and consistent approach to this process for enterprise organizations. From provisioning to renewal, you can rest assured that your certificate lifecycle management process is being handled. Our enterprise solutions automate certificate issuance and management at scale.

SMBs with fewer digital identities to manage can leverage Sectigo's Certificate Manager Pro to achieve a simple and straightforward approach to certificate management. Reach out today to learn more about our CLM solutions or take the next step and start your free trial.

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

Related posts:

2024 prediction: Digital identities have now entered an era of either pure blanket security or fundamental foundational insecurity
2024 prediction: no organization will be immune to the challenges of shrinking digital certificate lifespans
Security risks of manual Certificate Lifecycle Management
How to avoid SSL certificate outages
Google announces intentions to limit TLS certificates to 90 days: Why automated CLM is crucial