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Blog Post Jul 17, 2023

Security Risks of Manual Certificate Lifecycle Management

Digital certificates are a critical component in any cybersecurity strategy. They help mitigate organizations' ever-growing risk exposure by establishing digital trust and acting as a barrier to unauthorized access, fraudulent online activities, system outages, and data breaches. However, the increasing number of digital certificates in use by the average enterprise poses new challenges — how can enterprises manage thousands (or tens of thousands) of them cost-efficiently?

Let's look at the importance of certificate lifecycle management (CLM), why you should stop manual CLM immediately, and how to implement CLM effectively.

The Importance of Certificate Lifecycle Management

Digital certificates are cryptographic credentials for verifying the identity of entities in online transactions and communications. CLM is the process of managing digital certificates through issuance, renewal, revocation, and expiration tracking. 

Digital certificates and CLM help mitigate potential security risks and prevent unauthorized access or malicious tampering of data. They support essential security concepts such as authentication, identity verification, and encryption. They help establish trust, protect data integrity, and ensure compliance with data privacy regulations. CLM is the process of monitoring the validity of digital certificates to ensure the prompt revocation and renewal of compromised or expired ones to minimize vulnerabilities.

With the average cost of a data breach reaching a record high of $4.35 million and encryption-based threats growing by 260%, digital certificates have become more important than ever. Yet, obtaining these certificates is just the first step. 81% of companies experienced a certificate-related outage in the past two years — if you don't have an airtight CLM process, you could still experience costly downtime and breaches.

So how do you make sure nothing falls through the cracks?

Why Manual Certificate Lifecycle Management is an Absolute No-No

Manual certificate management is strongly discouraged in an enterprise environment where IT teams have to manage hundreds or thousands of digital certificates. The complex process of issuing digital certificates is labor-intensive, time-consuming, and error-prone, diverting your personnel from focusing on high-value, strategic initiatives. 

Inefficient tracking and lagged renewal can put your organization in a reactive stance. You may risk falling out of compliance with industry regulations and security standards. Moreover, the manual process often fails to provide the necessary controls and documentation for auditing and reporting.

 Here are the top security risks of manual certificate lifecycle management:

  • Increased vulnerability to security breaches.
  • Costly downtime and service disruptions caused by expired or outdated certificates.
  • Delayed response to unauthorized access and security incidents.
  • Weakened security posture due to certificate misconfiguration.
  • Negative impact on your brand's reputation and customer experience.
  • Lack of centralized visibility and control. 
  • Misuse of digital certificates due to delayed or missed revocations.

Certificate Lifecycle Management Best Practices

To eliminate the security risks of manual certificate management, implement an automated CLM solution like Sectigo Certificate Manager (SCM) to automate certificate management processes, enhance efficiency, and reduce the risk of human errors. Stay proactive by regularly monitoring certificate status and expiration dates — you can set real-time alerts and notifications with SCM to ensure timely renewal.

Conduct regular certificate audits to identify discrepancies, misconfigurations, or non-compliant certificates. Implement proper certificate revocation procedures to minimize unauthorized access and ensure the prompt replacement of compromised ones. Also, consolidate your CLM process onto a centralized platform to maximize control and visibility over your entire certificate inventory and enforce constant tracking and monitoring to ensure adherence to security policies.

Like any technology, your automated CLM solution is only as good as your team's ability to use it properly. Implement strong access controls and authentication mechanisms to secure the system and keep the platform up to date with the latest security patches. Educate your teams and provide training so employees understand their roles and responsibilities in the CLM process.

Eliminate the Security Risks of Manual Certificate Lifecycle Management

Manual certificate management is inefficient, labor-intensive, and error-prone. It can expose your organization to security risks, leading to unauthorized access, data breaches, and costly outages. An automated CLM platform should be a critical component of your security tech stack to help you streamline processes and eliminate human errors.

Sectigo Certificate Manager is an, automated, CA-agnostic platform for managing the lifecycle of all your public and private digital certificates. You can seamlessly deploy and automate CLM of digital certificates across various use cases, from web servers and enterprise email to digital identity management and secure DevOps containers.

Learn more about our robust CLM solution and start your free trial.