Lack of automation hampers certificate management
A new study carried out by Opinium for certificate authority GlobalSign shows that managing digital certificates, especially expirations and renewals, continues to be a challenging process for businesses of all sizes.
The top challenges respondents typically encountered when keeping track of certificates include managing multiple types of certificates (45 percent) and managing large quantities of them (41 percent).
But one of the most surprising findings is that 36 percent of IT professionals are still relying on Excel spreadsheets to manage certificates, even though automation tools are widely available. The issue of managing certificates -- especially expirations -- continues to be a significant problem across businesses. Expiry can create costly service disruptions, in April alone, there were instances of certificate expiration in the gaming industry, at a large VPN and also with a major credit card company. Yet only 39 percent of survey respondents ranked certificate outages and business interruptions among their biggest concerns in terms of 'getting PKI wrong'.
Only six percent say they are happy with the way they currently manage certificates. The rest would make changes including making them easier to track (39 percent), having automated certificate provisioning/enrollment (38 percent), and have centralized visibility and control (36 percent).
"IT has so many responsibilities now, which means there is no time for in-house certificate management. The obvious answer is to unload this complex process to an experienced provider," said Lila Kee, general manager, Americas at GlobalSign. "The survey findings underscore that automation is a critical tool that enables IT professionals to better manage certificates. The advantages are extremely beneficial to the business enterprise. Not only does automation greatly reduce or eliminate certificate expiration, it alleviates compliance concerns and it frees up IT resources."
Another surprising finding from the study, of more than 300 IT professionals in the US and the UK, is that while three quarters felt they would be able to explain the difference between electronic and digital signatures to at least some degree, the detailed responses suggest a significant misunderstanding between the two types. For example, the survey suggests the biggest pain points for IT professionals when thinking about digital signing are managing expirations and certificate renewals (48 percent), yet when implemented correctly with automation, expired certificates should not impact signature validation.
"As to the findings regarding digital signatures, they exposed how much education is still required so that IT professionals truly understand how PKI works and its many benefits," adds Kee.