Why are IT professionals not automating?

As an IT professional, you understand the value of automation, and like many IT experts, you may approach it with a mix of excitement and apprehension. Automation is a powerful tool for streamlining processes, reducing manual tasks, and enhancing efficiency within an organization. It’s often embraced for its potential to free up valuable time and resources, allowing IT teams to focus on more strategic and creative aspects of their work. However, IT professionals may have concerns about losing control over the process, which could lead to security issues.

IT teams certificate automation

These concerns are no different when it comes to certificate automation. Digital certificates are the fundamental building blocks of cybersecurity infrastructure. The number of certificates we use and the way we use them has grown exponentially. Over the past decade, to enhance security, certificate validity has been reduced and proposals have been made to reduce them again. These two factors—more certificates combined with a shorter validity—are increasing the pressure on already stretched IT teams. The obvious solution is automation, so why are IT teams slow in adopting digital certificate automation?

The barriers for autotomizing certificates

In the wake of Google’s proposal to reduce SSL/TLS validity to 90 days, we asked IT professionals, about their barriers for adopting automation, here is a summary of the results:

38% believe that compatibility and technical limitations are the main factors preventing them from automating their certificates. They don’t believe there is an out-of-the-box certificate automation solution that can address issues like the lack of support for automated renewal in certain systems or environments (such as Windows, IIS, Plesk). They also worry about the incompatibility of some systems with standard automated solutions.

25% of participants highlighted cost and resource as potential obstacles. They wonder if they need to create a custom solution and, if so, whether it’s cost-effective or cheaper to continue with manual maintenance. They are also concerned about the resources required to maintain an automated solution.
20% admit that they and their teams lack the knowledge or expertise to choose an automated solution. They are not familiar with automation in general or the specific requirements of automating their systems.

The survey results clearly indicate that many IT professionals are not familiar with or don’t see the value of certificate automation. Or is it that they didn’t think about it enough? After all, certificates have been part of our IT infrastructure for a very long time, while they are not exciting, they do work, so why fix something that is not broken? Unfortunately, when the 90-day Google edict eventually becomes reality, it will increase the need for renewal/replacement of SSL/TSL certificates by four times (4X) the current pace. IT professionals may be underestimating the burden that it will put on their teams. Given the cost of certificate outages, this will be a precarious situation for IT professionals and security teams if they don’t have a solid plan to deal with the accelerated certificate lifecycle management.

The risk of manual certificate management

The cost of not automating your certificate lifecycle management can be substantial. Manual certificate management processes are not only time-consuming but also prone to errors, which can result in security breaches, compliance issues, and operational disruptions. A recent study by AppViewX found that more than half of data breaches were caused by certificate issues. 57% of participants in the survey said that they incurred costs upward of $100,000 per certificate-related outage.

It’s clear that without automation, some organizations struggle to keep track of certificate expirations, leading to downtime or security vulnerabilities when certificates expire unnoticed. This is on top of the administrative burden of manual certificate management, which can strain IT teams and increase operational costs.

To automate or not to automate? Where do I start?

There are many use cases for certificate automation, and each organization has unique needs based on their infrastructure, knowledge, and certificate usage. However, there are actions you can take to plan your automation and as part of your regular cybersecurity hygiene check.

1. Identify
Take stock of your organization’s certificates. You can use a Certificate Inventory Tool such as GlobalSign’s Atlas Discovery to do this.

2. Analyze
Now that you have visibility of the full scope of your current PKI infrastructure, were you aware of it all? Does what you have work? Is it easy or difficult to manage? Have we taken risks to make management easier?

3. Research
Ask yourself this: are the certificates you have the ones you need? This is where you should involve your Certificate Authority (CA) and ask for advice. GlobalSign offers a complimentary Certificate Health check, a one-hour consultation where our experts will discuss your requirements and recommend ways to streamline your certificate management.

4. Plan
Map out the changes you need to make to your certificate management, prioritize automation tasks by their impact on your security and operational efficiency.

5. Automate
By now, you will know what you need to automate and whether you need to do so. Ask your CA about their automation tools. There are many options in the market, and some will be exactly right, while others may be overkill. Whichever you choose, make sure it is scalable.

To sum up, in a world where data security and compliance are paramount, the cost of not automating certificate lifecycle management extends beyond financial implications and encompasses potential reputational damage and legal consequences. The right automation partner understands that automation is bespoke, and any automation should be powered by human expertise.

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