Stages Of Certificate Life Cycle And Why CLM Is A Must To Incorporate

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Today, the authenticity of emails and websites is constantly questioned. Attackers often pose as other people, compromising sensitive information. An easy way to prove authenticity is through the use of a digital certificate. To prove that a certificate holder is who they claim to be, only the creator of the key pair can own a digital certificate that contains the matching key pair. 

A Certificate Authority, or CA, is another trusted authority that creates and signs the certificates. An offline and secure chain of trust is constructed to ensure the integrity of the CA's. 

However, certificates are not just created and handed out to users. Using these certificates requires a lifecycle that protects and renews them to continue functioning without fear of attackers stealing and posing as the owner. A certificate authority must manage its certificate lifecycle robustly and uncompromised before it is trusted. The certificate lifecycle needs to be implemented, as it is the equivalent of the user's identity.

What is the need for the Certificate Lifecycle?

It is essential to implement the certificate lifecycle because of what certificates are used for. As certificates identify websites and users on the Internet, a compromised certificate could allow an attacker to pretend to be the owner of that certificate, and that user would be held responsible for any attacks related to that certificate. Since a user's key is associated with a digital certificate, the key would also be compromised, as would any data encrypted with that key.

In addition to its use with websites, certificates require a robust lifecycle. An organization's website may suffer a loss if its digital certificate is compromised, resulting in outages. Alternatively, malware could also be installed on computers, or phishing campaigns could be run under the guise of the website owner. Knowing each stage of the certificate lifecycle and how to protect each stage is the first step towards adequately implementing the certificate lifecycle management services.

What are the stages of the Certificate Lifecycle?

The certificate lifecycle includes the following stages:

Certificate Discovery

Discovery occurs when the certificate life cycle tries to find revoked, renewed, or replaced certificates that are expired, compromised, or missing from the network. An integral part of the process, this phase finds gaps in the security of certificates and relays them to the monitoring phase, allowing them to be sealed. This phase also involves the inventorying and auditing of certificates to assist with Discovery phases in the future.

Certificate Purchasing

This phase involves the creation of the certificate. Users, organizations, and devices request certificates from Certificate Authorities containing the public key and other enrollment information needed to enroll the user. The CA then verifies the provided information and creates the certificate if it is valid. A Certificate Authority can be owned by the organization that desires the certificate or by a third party. To obtain a certificate from a third party, you must purchase it from them.

Certificate Installation

Certificates are easy to install but still very important. The certificate must be installed in a secure but accessible location, as users attempting to verify its authenticity must have access to it. As soon as the certificate is installed, the CA establishes policies to ensure its security and proper handling.

Certificate Storage 

Certificates installed must be placed in a secure location to prevent compromise. However, it shouldn't be so secure that users who need to read the certificate can't see it. This document will discuss how to implement appropriate policies and regulations for storing certificates.

Certificate Monitoring

The monitoring stage of the certificate lifecycle is one of the most important. Certificate management systems monitor for breaches, expirations, and compromises of digital certificates almost constantly, whether they are automated or manual. As part of the monitoring phase, the inventory created in the Discovery phase identifies when certificates need to be revoked, renewed, or replaced. The certificate management system moves certificates to the next step, such as renewal, revocation, or replacement.

Certificate Renewal

When a certificate's expiry date approaches, it needs to be renewed. Certificates naturally experience this phenomenon since the best practice is not to use them for more than five years. It is also possible to set certificates to renew automatically or keep a list of expiration dates and for the administrator to renew them at the appropriate time.

Certificate Revocation

The certificate will be revoked if it has been compromised, stolen, or otherwise negatively affected. Certificates are revoked by placing them on a Revocation List (CRL). As a result, other CAs will know that this certificate is no longer valid.

Certificate Replacement 

Changing from paying for certificates to creating Public Key Infrastructures (PKIs) and Certification Authorities (CAs) replaces a certificate. Most often, a certificate is renewed from the original provider rather than replaced.


Certificate lifecycle management prevents organizations from facing security and management gaps such as multiple authorization mechanisms, lost certificates, and expired certificates, causing revenue loss and reputation damage. With this solution in place, administrators may continuously monitor systems and certificates and generate an audit for governance and compliance purposes. What is more, this approach reduces the overall cost and complexity of managing SSL certificates across a distributed environment. Defining a strict management program for your organization is central to an effective certificate lifecycle management system. In addition to their role in network security, certificates are vital for online trust. 

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