How to avoid Certificate Outages

For a long time, Certificates have been an essential weapon for organizations. Certificates are used for secure communication between parties, authenticating users, code signing, digital signature, and many more. Many internal functionalities also need authorization and involve certificates for the same.
Certificates are valid for a fixed period – it shows how long certificates can be trusted. The Validity of certificates can be any period. If the certificate is not renewed or replaced before the expiration date, it becomes invalid or expired. Expired certificates can cause a lot of damage to the organization, from creating an error to terminating the whole system.

What are Certificate Outage and its effects?

An outage occurs when any certificate-related operation fails, and the process stops responding. If not adequately assessed, these outages can lead to serious security breaches. It can cost organizations heavily. We have witnessed many certificate outages problems arising in security news recently. From the ’90s to even now, we are still facing these outage problems, which is pretty strange because the whole security industry has been there with the tools to manage certificates called Certificate Management System.

Big profiles facing the problem

Many high-profile IT companies have been facing these outages recently. Recently a case occurred in Google when one of their service, Google Voice Service, became unavailable for a short period. After investigating the whole scenario, the report stated that their certificate was expired. The same type of Outage happened at Microsoft last year at Office 365. Not only Google Microsoft but many big high profile companies have also been facing these issues regularly.

The reason behind Certificate Outage

Eventually, every company working with certificates has installed a Certificate Management System. Still, they are facing the problem of outages. The reason behind it can be

  • Lack of Visibility

    There might be some certificates present in the company’s infrastructure but not in Certificate Management System. So, Certificate Management System only knows about the certificates present within them, and the certificates present outside of their system are still unassessed. The reason behind leaving these certificates can be anything; maybe we forgot to add them, perhaps they are third-party certificates that can’t get inside, and many more.

  • Another reason can be after the renewal of certificates

    The certificates might not have gone to the correct place to enable the service. An example of why it can happen is Java Key Store. So, Java Key Store is where you put the certificates that your Java Application is using. We can renew or update certificates in Java Key Store, and it loads keys into memory. But suppose a situation where it comes to looking for expired certificates, but the application hasn’t been restarted or re-assessed the java key store, it won’t know that new certificates are there. So, these can be the problems with it.

Solution

We can prevent these outages with some practices and look after the system.

  • Improving Visibility within the Infrastructure
  • Monitoring Certificates for expiration
  • Using Automation for renewal of certificates