TLS Server Certificate Management

Current Status

The National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence (NCCoE) has released a draft of National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Cybersecurity Practice Guide Special Publication 1800-16, Securing Web Transactions: Transport Layer Security (TLS) Server Certificate Management, for public comment. See the two-page fact sheet for an overview of the project.

This practice guide can benefit executives, chief Information security officers, system administrators, or anyone who has a stake in protecting his or her organization's data, privacy, and overall operational security.

 The NCCoE released the full draft which comprises the following volumes:

The comment period is open now until Friday, September 13, 2019.  We will also accept comments via email at tls-cert-mgmt-nccoe@nist.gov.

 

Summary

The NCCoE at NIST recognizes the vital importance of securing web transactions and other communications between clients and servers for organizations. This project uses commercially available technologies to demonstrate how medium and large enterprises that rely on Transport Layer Security (TLS) can secure both customer-facing and internal applications can better manage TLS server certificates by:

  • Defining operational and security policies; identifying roles and responsibilities
  • Establishing comprehensive certificate inventories and ownership tracking
  • Conducting continuous monitoring of certificate operational and security status
  • Automating certificate management to minimize human error and maximize efficiency on a large scale
  • Enabling rapid migration to new certificates and keys when cryptographic mechanisms are found to be weak, compromised or vulnerable

 In December 2018, the NCCoE released Volumes A and B of this guide to provide enterprises actionable guidance to help them establish and implement a formal TLS server certificate management program. The received comments were adjudicated and integrated into the updated draft versions of Volume A and B. With the release of the full guide, organizations can advance their TLS management efforts by reading Volume C which explains our approach, architecture, and security characteristics, and Volume D which contains the how-to-guides to build the example solutions.

Although client certificates may optionally be used in TLS to perform mutual authentication, managing client certificates is outside this project's scope.

Questions? Contact us at tls-cert-mgmt-nccoe@nist.gov.

Collaborating Vendors

Organizations participating in this project submitted their capabilities in response to an open call in the Federal Register for all sources of relevant security capabilities from academia and industry (vendors and integrators). The following respondents with relevant capabilities or product components (identified as “Technology Partners/Collaborators” herein) signed a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement to collaborate with NIST in a consortium to build this example solution.

DigiCert
f5 logo
Symantec logo
Venafi logo