As an organization, SSL certificates are a key component of your security infrastructure and Public Key Infrastructure (PKI). SSL certificates enable encrypted communications between servers and clients to protect sensitive data. To leverage SSL certificates effectively for PKI security, you need to implement processes and tools to manage the entire lifecycle of SSL certificates, from obtaining and installing them on servers to monitoring them for expiration and renewing or replacing them.
By taking a proactive and managed approach to obtaining and maintaining SSL certificates, you can build a strong foundation for your PKI security. SSL certificates enable encryption across networks and systems to protect data transmissions, authentication to verify identities, and other security functions. By managing SSL certificates, you gain greater visibility and control over your security infrastructure, which minimizes vulnerabilities, reduces costs and effort, and streamlines compliance with security standards.
In this article, we’ll examine the role of SSL certificates in website security and how to leverage your SSL certificates to enhance PKI security.
What Do SSL Certificates Do?
SSL certificates play three significant roles in PKI security: authentication, data encryption, and secure data transmission.
SSL certificates help authenticate your websites and web servers. When users connect to your website using HTTPS, their browser verifies that the SSL certificate matches the domain name they are trying to reach. This ensures they are linking to your website and not an imposter.
SSL certificates enable encryption of data transmission between your users’ devices and your web server. When you visit an HTTPS website, an SSL handshake occurs where a symmetric encryption key is negotiated, and all subsequent communication is encrypted using that key. This protects the data in transit from eavesdroppers.
Securing Data Transmission
By enabling authentication and encryption, SSL certificates help secure the data transmitted between user devices and your web server. They ensure that only the intended parties (you and the user) can view the data in transit. This protects sensitive information like passwords, credit card numbers, and other personal details.
So how do you leverage these abilities of SSL certificates to improve your PKI security?
Five Ways to Leverage SSL Certificates for Improved PKI Security
1. Use long, unique SSL certificate key lengths
Longer key lengths are more challenging to crack and provide more robust encryption. 2048-bit keys are the minimum, but 4096-bit keys or higher are preferred for stronger security.
2. Enforce strict SSL certificate expiration policies
Shorter expiration periods, such as one year, reduce the window of opportunity for compromised certificates to go undetected. A maximum of 1 year for an SSL expiration policy is a good start, but shorter periods of 90 or 180 days provide even stronger security.
3. Use wildcard SSL certificates sparingly
Wildcard certificates that secure multiple subdomains increase the scope of impact if compromised. Limit them to only where necessary. Only use wildcard certificates when securing a broad range of subdomains. Otherwise, limit the scope to specific hosts and domains.
4. Require Validated SSL certificates
Certificates that have undergone more vigorous vetting and validation by the Certificate Authority provide stronger identity authentication before issuing. Requiring EV or OV level SSL increases the authentication rigor. The stronger the authentication, the higher the trust.
5. Monitor for and quickly revoke compromised SSL certificates
Actively monitor for signs that an SSL certificate has been compromised and has become untrustworthy. Quickly revoke any compromised certificates to minimize security risks. Monitor for unauthorized access or configuration changes to the certificate infrastructure. Sectigo’s comprehensive SSL certificate manager can help you automate the revocation and renewal of expired certificates.
Boosting Your PKI Security With SSL Certificates
SSL certificates and a robust PKI infrastructure are critical components of an organization’s cybersecurity posture. A correctly implemented PKI provides security, control, and trust for network communications and data transmission. With a designated PKI manager and certificate lifecycle management solutions like those offered by Sectigo, you can streamline certificate issuance and renewal, provide visibility and control across the enterprise PKI, and ensure your PKI infrastructure’s ongoing security and integrity.