- After an authentication certificate expired, Microsoft Teams suffered an outage on Monday, according to a company announcement. Within an hour, Microsoft "initiated the deployment" of an updated certificate, the company said. About five hours later, the deployment was complete.
- An authentication certificate is used as a "public key," underlying encrypted communication "between the client and the target cloud or web application," James Christiansen, VP of cloud security transformation Netskope, told CIO Dive in an email. "It is a vital component to establishing a secure two-way communication with Microsoft Teams."
- To restore service after a certificate expires, companies have to find where the credentials are stored, update all of them and reset applications if necessary, said Christiansen.
We successfully deployed the fix to the affected infrastructure and conducted additional remediation actions to resolve the issue. More information can be found under TM202916.— Microsoft 365 Status (@MSFT365Status) February 3, 2020
However, even Microsoft has oversights. Deploying an update typically isn't a tenuous process, nor should it disrupt services. The intricacy of an application can influence the success of deployments. Even the "lowest levels" of security, such as domains or IP addresses, require authentication, Dean Coclin, senior director of business development at DigiCert, told CIO Dive in an email.
Ensuring certificates are up to date depends on the method of management.
A certificate designated to a specific domain or machine has to be approved by a third-party "certificate authority," which are trusted by operating systems and web browsers, said Christiansen. The third party extends its trustworthiness to the certificate holder.
Microsoft didn't disclose how it manages certificates, but there are typically two ways of doing so, according to Coclin:
Manually: "Someone creates a spreadsheet of their certificate inventory and maybe sets an alarm on their calendar before a cert expires, to remind them to get it renewed."
Automated: Using a certificate management software, users can either have an automated reminder programmed, or renewal and installation of new certificates," said Coclin.
Having a digital certificate's expiration slip under the radar could either be the fault of the administrator manually managing it or the software dysfunctioning. Teams often forget certificates they manage, according to Christiansen. The industry standard is centralizing the acquisition and management of certifications using software.