Smart devices are all around us: in our homes, in our pockets, at our desks and in our vehicles. They know when to wake us up in the morning, remind us of birthdays and doctor appointments and answer personal questions about our lives.
Just as we rely on our smart devices to communicate essential information to keep our lives in order, businesses depend on their devices to collect and process data, store and protect critical information and share that information with the correct recipient. Communication among devices, whether a personal device, desktop, mainframe, storage hardware or server, is made possible because these devices are interconnected and communicate via digital certificates. Each machine has a digital certificate to affirm the authenticity of the other devices in the network with which it communicates.
While this may seem like a background process, digital certificates must be closely watched. Every device certificate has a different lifespan with varying expiration dates, and every device impacts the system’s function differently. This complexity makes tracking the timeline for each device’s upgrades nearly impossible.
Without a comprehensive view of your digital certificates, you will never know when expired certificates must be replaced. In other words, you will not know when your network is exposed to risk.
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What to Know About Device Certificate Expiration
Similarly to how we renew our driver’s licenses, digital certificates require renewal to ensure their integrity and proper functioning with updated security protocols. As threats evolve alongside defensive technology, generating new certificates maintains the device’s security and keeps it ahead of attackers.
Device certificate lifespans can vary based on the device’s size, core functions, and importance to the organization. And each device could have more than one certificate. Whether it’s a small IoT device or a large data storage unit, the type of device impacts how its certificate should be managed.
The algorithms to construct each certificate also vary based on the different policies to accommodate varying storage sizes. As a result, each device certificate requires individual attention, and the simplicity of an update can impact its lifespan. In the past, device expiration dates were years after the certificate was issued. But with the growing number of devices and faster hardware, device certificate lifespans are shrinking to months or even days. This frequent certificate turnover, coinciding with the high number of connected devices, means more time that DevOps teams must dedicate to keeping devices organized and up to date.
A Need for Digital Certificate Surveillance
Just as your collection of smart devices is growing, so is the number of digital certificates that identify and validate the devices storing critical business data. Financial institutions, healthcare facilities, manufacturers, government operations, transportation organizations and other industries rely on the authenticity of the devices in their network to perform transactions, communicate PII data, program timetables and other activities critical to business function. Their customers also assume that the organizations storing their personal information have been verified and operate on a secure network. As organizations expand their networks across more and more devices, these digital certificate processes require more time, oversight and resources.
With day-to-day business functions reliant on inter-device communication, there is no room for error regarding certificate health and status. Therefore, systematically monitoring the status of device certificates is critical to maintaining a solid security protocol for devices storing sensitive data.
6 Questions to Avoid Certificate Expiration
Expired certificates should be recycled using a certificate management solution. Many organizations have tools to manage the vast number of device certificates in their networks. However, the status of device certificates can sometimes overwhelm security teams. Here are six key questions to keep in mind when it comes to understanding the status of your device certificates:
- What devices are in your network and IT environment?
- How do you prioritize when you need to update a device certificate?
- What is the business impact of each device on the business if its certificate expires?
- Can you quickly identify which certificate belongs to which device?
- What is the expiration date of these certificates?
- What is my organization’s process for managing device certificate lifecycles?
Storage admins and security analysts need visibility into the nature of each device and its certificate status to combat network vulnerabilities. Tools such as Guardium Key Lifecycle Manager’s certificate vision dashboard provide a view of the health status of certificates, as well as drill-down tables for selected data callouts for connected storage endpoints, HSMs and other devices. The ability to view and investigate certificates from one place can help you stay ahead of certificate renewal, avoid security mishaps and keep your business’s data flowing without interruption.
Watch this webinar to learn how to secure your network’s device certificates with Guardium Key Lifecycle Manager.
Product Marketing Manager, IBM Security
Edith Mendez is a Product Marketing Manager with IBM Security, focusing on encryption, key management and data discovery and classification. She is passionat...