The Equations Governing SSL/TLS Certificate Management, Expirations, and Outages

Reading the title of the blog, you might be curious, or even slightly intimidated, to find the word ‘equations’ in it. Fear not; these equations aren’t some complex mathematical laws derived using arcane parameters, but simple, logical statements to help you achieve the ultimate goal: zero outages due to unplanned SSL/TLS certificate expiration.

First, let’s break down the taboo around certificate expirations. Certificate expiration is one of the core tenets of cybersecurity – it is, in fact, what makes systems and applications secure. Certificates need to expire after a set validity period (which is growing shorter year on year) to prevent their cipher from being broken and compromising the endpoints they protect. Outages occur when the expiration is unplanned, that is when the expiring certificate is not renewed in time.

Control Your Certificates Before They Go Rogue!

Unplanned certificate expirations have been the reason behind some of the most massive outages and data breaches in history, such as Equifax, LinkedIn, Ericsson, and most recently, Google Voice.

All it took was a stone to bring down Goliath.

The above companies that have experienced an outage or have been breached aren’t some cash-strapped entities but giants in their respective domains. This goes on to show that no company, big or small, is immune to unplanned certificate expirations. All it takes is one expired certificate to bring down the biggest of giants.

Infosec teams in every organization would have some sort of certificate management in place. It could be (gasp!) a spreadsheet containing certificates with their expiration dates that is floated around. They could’ve written some macros to send them alerts when a certificate nears expiry. Or, they could be using a tool that comes with their CA that monitors the PKI and alerts personnel on impending expirations.

The Equations Governing SSL-TLS Certificate Management, Expirations, and Outages

But monitoring and alerting don’t stop certificates from expiring suddenly – it’s all too easy to miss alerts or forget to act on them or renew it wrong and have the endpoint exposed, which brings us to our first equation:

Certificate Management – Automation = Certificate Mismanagement

What about large organizations? Judging by the endless resources that these giants have at their disposal, they could be using a dedicated certificate lifecycle management tool. Such tools do more than their spreadsheet counterparts – they can inventorize certificates, monitor their status, and send expiry alerts.

Certificate lifecycle management tools also with limited automation capabilities for provisioning, renewing, and revoking certificates. These, however, aren’t a part of the solution itself but drawn from its partner ecosystem at a cost. And, as evidenced by the events described earlier on, these solutions haven’t helped prevent outages and breaches. This brings us to our second equation, which is:

Certificate Lifecycle Automation + Limited Automation = Operational Complexities + Cost

So, what goes into the perfect equation, the one that guarantees zero outages? From the above arguments, it becomes amply clear that the variable in contention is automation. And not just any automation, but true, native automation. The equation now becomes-

Certificate Lifecycle Management + Native Automation = Next-Gen Certificate Lifecycle Management

What do we mean by native automation? And how does that help provide Next-Gen Certificate Lifecycle Management? We’ve covered all that and more in our new guide – Automating SSL/TLS Certificate Lifecycles for Outage-Free Applications and Networks. Get your free copy now.

Let’s get you started on your certificate automation journey

About the Author

Nishevitha Ramamoorthy

Product Marketing Manager - AppViewX CERT+

Nishevitha is the product marketer at AppViewX. She writes, does research, and builds strategies to communicate the product's value to prospective buyers.

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