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How To Simplify Digital Certificate Renewal with Keyfactor

One of the most common questions we hear at Keyfactor is, “how do I make the certificate renewal process easier for certificate owners?” Even with certificate management software in place, certificate owners still need to monitor their landscape closely to avoid certificate expirations. When it’s time for a new certificate, they still need to create a certificate signing request (CSR), get a public key, and manually import that certificate into their application. Not exactly user-friendly.

In reality, most organizations today still use some form of spreadsheets and custom scripts to track certificates and notify respective teams about upcoming expirations. But when the time comes for certificate renewal, email alerts and notifications only go so far. Alerts can be missed or forgotten about, and even if action is taken, the burden of traditionally slow and manual steps to request and renew certificates means that many slip through the cracks, causing a widespread network or application outage. Automation is the antidote to ensure every certificate remains current.

The biggest challenge with certificate renewal is network infrastructure such as application servers, web servers, load balancers, and firewalls. These include IIS Web Servers, F5 Devices, Netscaler, and Java Keystores. Certificates spread across these network devices must be renewed regularly and continuously monitored for any changes.

Active Directory (AD) Auto-Enrollment only partially helps with IIS servers, but it does not automatically bind the certificate to the application. To make things more difficult, processes change over time. Key lengths and signing algorithms evolve (i.e. SHA-1 to SHA-2 migration), certificate templates change, and companies may switch their public certificate authority (CA).

Certificate owners simply don’t often have the time to address these changes that make the ability to get a new certificate even more complex. Worse still, if they have thousands of servers to manage, projects will be put on hold to prevent a certificate-related outage. Why? Because they know that if even a single certificate slips through the cracks, the consequences are often serious – hours of downtime, loss of revenue, even reputational damage.

How to Automate Digital Certificate Lifecycle Management with Keyfactor

Imagine if this painful process could be automated, from end-to-end. If binding certificates to applications happened automatically. If you could replace every certificate on every web server within minutes. If you didn’t need to pass sensitive PFX files around, leaving your private keys exposed to risk. With the right tools and technology, all of this is achievable.

Keyfactor automation enables certificate owners to take the frustration and worry out of certificate renewal. Not only will it allow you to renew certificates with the same information as the previous certificate, it will also automatically bind that certificate to the necessary interface.

Keyfactor Command delivers agent-based or agentless automation tools:

  • The Keyfactor Windows Automation Orchestrator lives on a Windows Server and remotely manages certificate stores across all of your IIS servers, F5 and Netscaler devices, FTP-capable devices, and Amazon Web Services (AWS) resources, without any requirement to deploy the orchestrator on every device. This allows you to discover all certificates in the configured certificate store and import them into a single platform to be centrally managed. Now those imported certificates can be continuously monitored, audited, and most importantly, automatically renewed and replaced, helping you to stay ahead of expirations while eliminating manual efforts.
  • The Keyfactor Java Automation Agent, on the other hand, is a lightweight and customizable Linux agent that provides programmatic access to Linux servers to discover and manage Java Keystores or PEM directories. In this case, the agent must be deployed on each managed Linux server. However, it comes with a built-in script that allows you to build an RPM package that can easily be deployed to all of your Linux Servers.

How Does Digital Certificate Automation Work?

Custom renewal periods are defined before a certificate is set to expire. Once that custom alert triggers, it will automatically send a notification and use the previous information from the expiring certificate to request a new certificate and deploy it to the application without a single click required.

For IIS servers, the Windows Automation Orchestrator will bind the new certificate to the 443 port. For F5 devices, the Orchestrator will bind the digital certificate to any client or SSL profiles that were configured for the previous certificate, without changing the profile or certificate name. The same is true for NetScaler, AWS, Java Keystores, and PEM directories.

Need to change certificate information? Automation Orchestrators and Agents can easily deploy a new certificate with updated information automatically to the certificates store(s) of your choice. Need to deploy from a new template? Generate a new certificate from any template you need and from any CA, such as Digicert, Sectigo, Entrust, and others, which helps drive crypto-agility.

Automation is not limited to your internal PKI either. When combined with Keyfactor CA Gateways to directly integrate with your public CAs, Automation Orchestrators and Agents can completely automate the issuance, renewal, and revocation of all publicly-issued and internal certificates.

Our open API layer, known as the AnyAgent framework, is flexible and extensible to virtually any device or application. This means that we can connect to a variety of cloud or enterprise-hosted devices within hours or days, and just a few lines of code, with relative ease in comparison to competitors.

Making the Move from Ad Hoc to Automation

Certificate renewal is painful. Dispersed ownership of certificates between ITOps, NetOps, DevOps and other teams across the organization makes it incredibly difficult to keep certificate owners ahead of expirations and aligned with security policies. These challenges are only compounded by a growing number of connected devices and shorter certificate lifecycles. Certificates can easily get missed or forgotten and PFX files can be misplaced or copied and stored insecurely.

By investing in automation, IT and security teams not only avoid disruptive network and application outages, they also save significant time and frustration for certificate owners previously burdened with manual processes to request and renew certificates.

Learn more about Keyfactor Automation Orchestrators and Agents through real-life use cases from other PKI leaders. Check out our white paper, PKI Automation for the Future to learn how automation helps deliver on the promises of PKI and the goals of your IT strategy: