Systems authenticate and identify individuals and devices using digital certificates.
These certificates consist of a public key and a corresponding private key, which in turn may be used to identify or authenticate individuals or devices.
A certificate manager, also known as an issuer, issues certificates to users and devices.
The advantages of using digital certificates are numerous:
- The system can use them for identification or authentication
- They provide confidentiality by keeping the contents private
- They prevent tampering by providing non-repudiation and
- They can be used together with access control policies
A digital certificate is an electronic credential that uses cryptography to prove the ownership of a public key.
A user’s public key is contained in their digital certificate. It needs effective certificate lifecycle management services to function correctly.
What Is a Certificate Management System?
A certificate management system consists of computer applications, servers, and databases that help issue, maintain and revoke digital certificates correctly.
Digital certificates are used by certificate lifecycle management services for identification or authentication purposes by individuals, software programs (such as web browsers), and devices (such as routers).
How Can You Get a Certificate?
When you buy an SSL certificate, HTTPS is tunneling your web browser through to the website’s authentication system. This means that your web browser encrypts data before sending it and decrypts it on the other side.
To avail SSL certificate, you need to understand the requirement of a website and consider a number of domains and subdomains. A single domain SSL let’s say secures a single domain while a wildcard SSL secures unlimited subdomains. If you run a site with subdomains then, you can easily find low-cost or cheap wildcard SSL certificates. Else, you can contact the live chat of SSL providers for better suggestions. Wildcard SSL on another side also eases certificate management.
If the system didn’t do this, anyone with a packet sniffer could intercept your web browser’s requests and see what you are doing.
When you decide to purchase an SSL certificate, it will be issued with a digital signature containing the following information:
- Certificate owner data
- Public key data
- The issuer of the certificate
- The validity period of the certificate
- Whether or not this is a duplicate certificate
Certificate Life Cycle
A typical certificate life cycle generates a private/public key pair by an end entity.
The public key is bound to user information and submitted to the CA (Certificate of Authority), storing it in its CRL. When the CA issues a digital certificate to the end entity, it also keeps it in its CRL.
When users need to authenticate using their digital certificate (for example, when checking email), they can use their private key and public key with an encryption algorithm to provide proof of identity.
Phases of Certificate Lifecycle Handling
They are seven in number:
This is the process of determining if a specific certificate is currently valid. It typically happens in one of two ways:
- By consulting with the CA (using certificate revocation list)
- By checking to see if it was locally cached
The CA creates a certificate revocation list (CRL) each time a user’s certificate is revoked.
CRLs are downloaded to users’ machines regularly so the system can check their validity before any certificate-based authentication processes.
Generation of Certificates
When requested, a certificate can be self-signed (meaning the issuer and subject are the same) or signed by another entity. The most common type of certificate generation is called “binding.” This process binds a public key to identity by utilizing hashing or signing techniques.
Analysis of Certificates
Managing digital certificates is a complicated task. At the forefront is always the CA, which must determine if they can trust it and if it is valid for use
Supervision of Certificate Management
Supervision is the process that the CA uses to monitor its PKI components.
- Collecting status information from each PKI component
- Prioritizing issues, and
- Taking appropriate corrective actions when necessary.
Certificate Monitoring and Management
It’s tracking and managing all certificates within a PKI. It includes the following activities:
- Monitoring certificate status (revocation, expiration)
- Preventing use of compromised/compromised certificates
- Authorization of registration authorities (RA) and key-enabling components
- Monitoring and managing recovery of key recovery components.
Validation of Certificates
The validation of a certificate is the process used by RA’s to verify that a certificate request meets all requirements before issuing it. This includes verifying, for example, if a level of security exists or an appropriate CRL has been configured.
Revocation of Certificates
The system can revoke certificates at any time for any reason. This is especially important when the private key associated with a certificate has been compromised or when the structure can’t trust it for an apparent reason anymore.
Why You Require An Automated Certificate Management Structure
Certificate management systems can be challenging to use, and manually maintaining them is tough.
Here are some valid reasons to rely on an automated certificate handling system:
- It’s possible for PKI transactions such as key generation, certificate signing, and validation to take hours due to the number of time users need to spend on them.
- If companies don’t have automated processes in place, they may overlook or forget to renew certificates, which means other systems won’t trust them.
- If they don’t have proper certificate management systems in place, the system can no longer access company websites.
- One of the benefits of using an automated certificate management system is the reduced risk of errors.
The CA must always validate the process, but companies must keep their certificate management up-to-date and automated to minimize human errors. This is the best way to ensure that certificates will always be trusted and usable.
Try a certificate management system in your company today and experience the unmatched difference in accuracy and seamlessness.