The Trust is Broken when Private Keys are Misappropriated

In March 2015, Ponemon Institute published a report which analyzed the business failures associated with compromised company keys and certificates.  The report states that of the 2300 IT Security Professionals around the globe. 59% admit lack of Security policy enforcement, remediation of Keys and certificates where they located and how misused.

Security keys and SSL Certificates are the bulwarks for maintaining enterprise reputation, customer confidence, and overall security. If the protector proved weak, then it leads to serious implications.

The Implications of Unsecured Keys

Businesses rely on keys and certificates to provide private communications authorize and authenticate access to online services. The netizens demonstrate complete subservience towards the security implied by SSL Keys and SSL Certificates.  So, what happens when this security goes rogue?

When the trust built breaks, the business houses reputation falls down. And the customers start parting ways with the organization, hence the confidence built over the years now bites the dust.

A server uses the private key to decrypt any requests submitted to it. If the hackers gain access to the private keys, they clearly can decrypt the data transmitted between the client and the server additionally breaking any company PCI-DSS agreements and GLBA compliance.  In the event of compromised keys, customer’s loss, tainted brand image, loss of revenue and expenses to resume normalcy, are few major consequences resulting from company’s unprotected SSL Keys.

Private keys installed with each certificate on various devices, without management tools, administrators can easily lose track of the private keys and certificates they own, with each compromised private key, the server, application, or service associated with it must be replaced with a new private key and certificate. However, companies can avoid such shortfalls by taking the right step to protect the keys and certificates and facilitate greater security and integrity.

Best Practices:

  1. To keep a track of the deployment of the Keys and Certificate.
  2. To establish a Security regime and understand what and who needs prioritizing and trusted. Enforce policies for security and automation.
  3. Always keep an eye on trusted and compromised. Security is not only about protection but also prevention. A regular monitoring of the SSL Certificates and keys can keep you at peace.
  4. Remediation of all the issues found related to keys are very important. One must remove all the vulnerable keys and certificates and replace them with new ones.
  5. Protect the keys with File system permissions such as Access Control lists (ACLs),  Situations where the Web servers are numerous or physical or virtually distributed, the cost of Hardware Storage for Private keys will be prohibitive, so the keys should be stored on local systems and the permissions should be minimum  and restricted to a few.
  6. The best way of securing the private key is the Hardware storage module (HSM), using a hardware device. Hacker must first go through and hack the hardware before he can obtain the private key. It will make their task difficult when the devices stored and placed with restricted access. HSM provides narrow and a protected connection intended for persistent access.


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