Symantec Cloud Service Guards SSL Certificates


Symantec’s Certificate Intelligence Centre manages SSL certificates, from any issuing authority

Symantec rolled out a new cloud-based digital certificate management service to help organisations worried about the security of their SSL certificates.

With the Symantec Certificate Intelligence Centre companies can manage all the certificates for their servers, even if they were issued by different certificate authorities, in one central repository. The service, which the company formally announced 12 September, features automated scanning to discover all certificates being used on the network, advanced notification when they are set to expire, apply compliance requirements and provide in-depth reporting, allowing organisations to keep an eye on SSL security, Symantec said.


Organisations have to manage Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificates for all their servers, both internal and customer-facing, to protect user transactions from malicious attackers. The sky-rocketing number of mobile applications and cloud-based services has also made the task more challenging. Gathering information on all certificates across “complex enterprise networks” is an expensive, time consuming and resource-intensive job, according to Symantec. With the new CIC service, Symantec will help enterprises meet internal and regulatory requirements.

“Symantec Certificate Intelligence Centre will make certificate management easier than ever,” said Fran Rosch, vice-president of Trusted Services at Symantec.

Intended for the large enterprise, Symantec Certificate Intelligence Centre would alert the organisation when a certificate was about to expire, so that administrators could renew it and prevent web browsers from throwing a warning about errors with the certificate. While users can just ignore the warning and get to the website, with everyone jittery about the prospect of fake certificates floating in the wild, organisations are concerned about avoiding such issues.

In light of the DigiNotar breach, where an attacker compromised the certificate authority and issued over 500 fraudulent SSL certificates for high-profile websites, organisations need to be aware of which certificates they have deployed across virtual machines, cloud services and mobile devices. A central service such as CIC could be used by an organisation to verify whether it has any DigiNotar certificates, so that it can obtain replacement certificates from a different CA.

Mozilla demanded all the certificate authorities it worked with to perform a security audit after “Comodohacker” claimed to have compromised four other authorities other than DigiNotar. Japanese-owned GlobalSign discovered one of its web servers had been compromised, but none of the systems that handle SSL certificates. Symantec “will work with Mozilla” on its request for securing the CA business, Rosch told eWEEK.


“We have performed exhaustive audits of our network and we are confident that our systems have not been affected by recent breaches,” Rosch wrote in an e-mail. None of Symantec’s SSL Certificate Authorities, including VeriSign, Thawte, GeoTrust and RapidSSL, had been breached, Rosch said.

The statement last week by a Dutch government agency about Thawte being compromised was made “erroneously”, Rosch wrote on the Symantec blog.

Mozilla hasn’t said what it would do if a CA refused to comply with the audit demand, but removing a CA’s root key from the browser would have a significant impact on the Internet. There are more than 650 certificate authorities providing SSL certificates, but one company may handle certificates for a large number of organisations.

For example, Comodo, the certificate authority whose resellers were breached earlier this year, signs certificates for “a quarter of the Internet”, estimated Moxie Marlinspike, a security researcher who discussed the problems with the current CA system at this year’s Black Hat security conference. Removing DigiNotar because of the breach has significantly affected Dutch government agencies and businesses.

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