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In recent times, SSL/TLS certificate management is rapidly changing, with Google’s recent announcement to reduce certificate validity terms to just 90 days. This shift has profound implications for organizations and the industry, necessitating a shift from manual to automated SSL certificate lifecycle management (CLM).
This article will explore the crucial role of ACME (Automated Certificate Management Environment) in the future of SSL/TLS certificate validity, examine the benefits of shrinking certificate validity, and highlight how automation has transformed from a luxury to an absolute necessity in ensuring secure online environments.
ACME, short for Automated Certificate Management Environment, is a widely recognized standard protocol that enables the automated validation and installation of X.509 certificates.
Documented in IETF RFC 8555, ACME offers a seamless solution for provisioning websites and IoT devices, such as modems and routers, with publicly and privately trusted digital certificates, ensuring continuous updates over time.
It’s worth noting that ACME’s scope extends beyond websites alone. With an ACME-enabled issuing Certificate Authority (CA) like Certera, IoT vendors can effortlessly manage and automate the validation, installation, renewal, and revocation of SSL/TLS certificates on ACME-capable devices, enhancing security and operational efficiency.
ACME is significant in shaping the future of SSL/TLS certificate validity. The Internet Security Research Group (ISRG) created the protocol to streamline and automate the management of certificate lifecycles.
Its inception occurred when a particular SSL/TLS certificate provider introduced a 90-day validity period, which diverged from the practices of other commercial Certificate Authorities (CAs) aligned with the CA/Browser Forum.
The maximum validity period for SSL/TLS certificates is 398 days, roughly equivalent to 13 months, per the CA/B Forum’s Baseline Requirements.
However, a significant shift looms in SSL/TLS certificate validity. In early March 2023, following the CA/B Forum’s meetings, Google announced its intention to limit the maximum certificate validity to 90 days for all publicly trusted SSL/TLS certificates.
This change’s specific implementation date has yet to be officially declared. Google is seeking feedback from Certificate Authorities through the CA/B Forum. Once this feedback is collected, Google will announce the enforcement dates for these new validity guidelines. We will keep you informed.
When automating SSL/TLS certificate management, ACME service is a reliable and efficient solution. Such an agent-independent solution streamlines operations, freeing your IT team of time-consuming responsibilities while saving your company money.
ACME service caters to domain-validated (DV) and organization-validated (OV) SSL/TLS certificates. Its effectiveness is bolstered by extensive experience, robust support infrastructure, and adherence to Service Level Agreements (SLAs), which have established it as one of the world’s most reputable Certificate Authorities and Qualified Trust Service Providers.
Through ACME service, clients gain access to certificate packs and can easily manage them via the emPower portal. This comprehensive automation solution allows centralized control and administration of all SSL/TLS certificates across your network.
Organizations can achieve a seamless and efficient SSL/TLS certificate management process by leveraging ACME service. Eliminating manual tasks and streamlining certificate issuance and management enhances operational efficiency and contributes to a more secure and compliant digital environment.
Investing in ACME service empowers your organization to stay ahead in an ever-changing landscape, ensuring SSL/TLS certificate management automation while benefiting from the trusted expertise and support it provides.
To facilitate the integration of ACME protocol, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has developed Certbot, a free and open-source tool. Certbot allows users to request or revoke SSL/TLS certificates from Certera via the ACME protocol. Certbot is compatible with various platforms, including Linux, macOS, and Windows, making it accessible to many users.
Assuming Certbot is not yet installed on your computer, you can follow these steps:
Step 1: If you have Snapd installed, you can use the following command to install Certbot:
sudo snap install --classic certbot
Step 2: If “/snap/bin/” is not included in your PATH, you will also need to add it or create a symbolic link using the command:
sudo ln -s /snap/bin/certbot /usr/bin/certbot
With Certbot installation, you gain a powerful tool that enables seamless integration with ACME-capable systems. It sets the stage for automating SSL/TLS certificate management, simplifying the process of provisioning, renewing, and revoking certificates, all while leveraging the secure and trusted services offered by Certera.
Once you have obtained your credentials, you can manually request an SSL/TLS certificate using the certbot command. Certbot supports two domain validation (DV) methods: HTTP-01 and DNS-01.
The HTTP-01 challenge method is commonly utilized in conjunction with ACME and Certbot. When requesting a certificate using this method, Certbot generates a token that allows you to create a publicly-accessible file on your website. Certera’s ACME server then verifies the file through HTTP and issues a signed certificate if the verification is successful.
The HTTP-01 method necessitates access to your web server and the availability of your website over port 80 via HTTP. Additionally, you will need sudo privileges on your computer.
To manually retrieve a certificate, execute the following command, replacing the values in ALL CAPS with your specific information. Alternatively, you can also copy and paste a certbot command that performs this action from your portal account:
sudo certbot certonly --manual --server https://acme.certera.com/certeracom-dv-ecc --config-dir /etc/certera-com --logs-dir /var/log/certera-com --agree-tos --no-eff-email --email EMAIL-ADDRESS --eab-hmac-key HMAC-KEY --eab-kid ACCOUNT-KEY -d DOMAIN.NAME
It commands you to initiate obtaining an SSL/TLS certificate manually. Ensure that you provide the correct values for the server, directories, email address, HMAC key, account key, and domain name. This meticulous process is essential for validating and securing your website’s communication.
QUICK NOTE: While the manual request method offers flexibility, it may require more effort and involvement than automated methods.
The management of SSL/TLS certificates has always been a labor-intensive task. Handling multiple certificates involves meticulous planning, managing various validations, ensuring proper issuance and installation on the intended servers, configuring the certificates, and setting reminders for their expiration dates – a colossal undertaking.
Imagine multiplying this workload by four times a year instead of just once. The resulting burden would be overwhelming. Fortunately, there exists a more straightforward solution to prevent your IT team from feeling overwhelmed – ACME.
As a protocol, ACME facilitates seamless communication between a Certificate Authority (CA) and an agent installed on a web server. This agent effectively handles certificate requests, domain validations, installations, and renewals for websites hosted on the server.
ACME was explicitly designed to accommodate these shortened timelines and has undergone continuous refinement since its inception, catering to more than just open-sourced domain-validated (DV) certificates.
Gone are manual domain validations, as the agent takes care of that task effortlessly. Say goodbye to the complexities of installations and configurations – the agent also handles those. And when a certificate nears its expiration and requires replacement, you can rest assured that the agent has everything under control.
By embracing ACME and its automation capabilities, organizations can alleviate the burdensome manual tasks associated with SSL/TLS certificate management.
With ACME streamlining the certificate lifecycle, IT teams can focus on more strategic initiatives, ensuring robust security and compliance while adapting to the changing landscape of certificate validity requirements.
The transition from manual to automated certificate management is no longer a luxury; it has become indispensable in maintaining a secure online presence.
Why shrinking certificate validity is a beneficial move. In the past, SSL certificates could have a lifespan of five years. However, this duration has gradually decreased to three years, then two, and now the maximum validity period. The reasoning behind this reduction is simple: the longer a certificate remains valid, the less reliable.
SSL/TLS certificates serve as vital tools for browsers to verify the identity of web servers. The longer interval between verifications, the less dependable validation process becomes dependable. It is essential to verify this information frequently to maintain high authentication reliability.
Google’s representative on the CA/B Forum previously suggested that domain validation information should remain reliable for approximately six weeks, highlighting the need for shorter certificate validity periods.
As SSL/TLS certificate validity transforms, embracing ACME and its automation becomes increasingly crucial. Organizations can ensure timely renewals, enhanced security, and adherence to evolving industry standards by adopting automated certificate lifecycle management.
The shift from manual to automated SSL/TLS certificate management has evolved from a choice to an absolute necessity, empowering businesses to adapt and thrive in changing certificate validity requirements.
Exploring the Potential of 30-Day Certificates
While it may be premature to make definitive predictions, considering the historical trend of decreasing SSL/TLS certificate validity periods, it is only partially implausible to imagine certificates being further crunched to 30 days shortly.
Mastering Certificate Lifecycle Management with ACME
Given the evolving landscape of certificate validity, engaging in meaningful discussions about certificate lifecycle management within your organization is paramount. This discussion becomes even more critical when considering the effectiveness of ACME as an ideal solution.