Management of Digital Certificates and Keys in DevOps

What’s is DevOps?

DevOps is an amalgamation of software development and IT operations. It evolves organizations so that they can improve and deliver their products at a higher pace than organizations with conventional software development models. This enables organizations to effectively & efficiently service their customers and command a strong reputation in the market.

DevOps is the latest tool to provide faster time-to-market and continuous improvement in business technology. It also provides quick deployment of IT services and supports innovation in conventional IT processes.

By adopting DevOps technology, organizations provide better customer satisfaction to customer requirements more quickly and reliably. It also enhances the efficiency due to automation that results in more and more organizations adopting it.

As is the case with any new technology, every new technology has some risks associated with it and DevOps is no exception.  In order to increase the delivery speed of IT services, DevOps engineers overlook security at times, which might have serious consequences, including data breaches or application outages.

Let’s look into some of the IT security processes involved with DevOps.

Everyone knows how important digital certificates and their associated keys are with respect to data-in-motion protection. Digital certificates helped with expanding the growth of internet-based transactions during the start of the Internet era. Now-a-days, the expansion is going on in the domain of IoT and cloud enabled services. 

Digital certificates offer data-in-motion security for any website or server (public/private) by enabling secure communications between the client and server using HTTPS-based communication protocols. This method of secure connection can be utilized by IT engineers to connect to applications, servers, and cloud resources. Also, these certificates enable users to sign the code digitally on various platforms such as iOS, Android, Windows, etc.

As we learned, DevOps’ objective is to make things faster and easier, however, working with digital certificates and their associated keys makes things go slower and makes things more complex. DevOps engineers overlook security while working with certificates, such as generating certificates from freely available sites to make the certificate generation and deployment process fast, however, this presents serious risks to the overall environment. 

Now the question arises, how can we extract DevOps benefits while maintaining a strong security standard within the DevOps environment. The answer is – build security into DevOps so that the IT functions can be performed quickly and securely. 

Below are some of the best practices for certificates and keys that can help DevOps deliver the desired outcome while preserving a strong security standard.

Automate Certificate Lifecycle Management

Organizations should automate processes to generate and distribute certificates and keys to be used with HTTPS/SSH during the build process so that the DevOps engineers cannot find their own ways to use certificates/keys, but rather rely on some standard approach such us using REST APIs.

Improving Visibility for Certificate Validity

Certificate expiry plays a very critical role in the uninterrupted functioning of applications. At times, operation teams forget to follow the exact schedule of certificate expiry, which results in critical application outages which impacts the reputation of the service provider. For example, Microsoft Windows Azure Storage experienced a worldwide outage impacting HTTPS traffic due to an expired SSL certificate in the past. To avoid these types of outages, you need to run a discovery of certificates and their usage in the environment.

Build Automated Catalogues

Some legacy IT applications need a considerable amount of time to provision their certificates and keys. Considering the DevOps approach, it can deliver/provision thousands of certificates within a quick span of time. In order to cater to the above two aspects for IT applications, we can create a playbook catalogue that has all the steps, required to use the certificates and keys in the development environment, automated in the form of APIs.

The ultimate goal of a DevOps team should be to embed security into DevOps practices. With the help of the above-mentioned techniques, enterprises can continue to enjoy the benefits of DevOps agility without compromising on security.