SCEP stands for Simple Certificate Enrollment Protocol. SCEP was created by VeriSign, Inc., and was published as an Internet Draft by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) in 1999. It was initially built to enable creation and management of X.509 certificates in large-scale environments. Simply put, it’s a protocol used to automate the issuance and management of certificates within a Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) environment. SCEP is primarily designed for certificate enrollment on devices such as routers, switches, and other network devices.
Think of a certificate as a digital ID card for devices and websites. For this ID to be valid, it needs a stamp of approval from a trusted group called a Certificate Authority (CA). For more information on certificate authorities, check out our blogs on public vs private CAs and root vs issuing/subordinate CAs. SCEP helps devices and systems talk smoothly with this authority, using a web link and a shared code. This makes the whole process quicker and cuts down on manual work.
SCEP has been popular for many years. Why? It’s free and saves time for IT teams, making it a top choice for business security.
SCEP enables devices to request, obtain, and renew certificates without manual intervention. It’s commonly used in enterprise environments where a large number of devices require certificates for secure communication and authentication purposes. It simplifies the enrollment process and allows organizations to efficiently manage certificates across a diverse range of network devices.
Lots of systems use SCEP. If you’ve heard of Mobile Device Management (MDM) systems like Microsoft Intune or Apple MDM, they use SCEP to help phones and tablets connect safely to business tools. Devices like routers, Wi-Fi spots, and VPN tools also use SCEP to get their digital IDs.
SCEP helps phones, tablets, and networking tools get their digital ID cards, so they can connect safely to business networks and apps. This protocol works well with popular systems like Windows, Linux, Apple’s iOS, and MacOS. Plus, it’s compatible with directories like Active Directory.
Here’s a high-level overview of how Intune SCEP works:
If you are using Intune you are probably trying to move away from legacy on-premise technology and move your security to the cloud. To create a secure and compliant CA for Intune, you can use EZCA, the Azure-based PKI. EZCA connects to Intune using their Third Party APIs and enables you to create SCEP certificates for Intune without the overhead of managing a complex PKI.
Intune starts the certificate creation workflow by: sending a challenge to the client device, then the device creates a private key and a Certificate Signing Request (CSR) and sends it with the challenge to EZCA, EZCA then validates with Intune whether this request is valid, once Intune approves the request, EZCA creates the certificate and Intune installs the resulting certificate in the device.
Certificates are excellent when it comes to digital security, but obtaining and managing them can be a nightmare. Doing this manually is painfully slow and leaves plenty of room for error. Think about it: setting up a single certificate might take hours. Now imagine doing this for thousands of devices!
If done manually, businesses risk system outages, security breaches, and cyber-attacks. Plus, certificates can be forgotten or mismanaged, leading to more issues.
That’s where SCEP shines. It automates getting and setting up these digital ID cards, removing the need for human work. This means fewer mistakes, less risk, and cost savings for businesses.
While SCEP certainly has its advantages, it’s important to remember that like any technology, it needs to be configured correctly and managed properly to provide maximum benefit. Negligence could lead to security vulnerabilities and operational inefficiencies. For instance, using SCEP in conjunction with additional protocols or security layers can provide enhanced security. However, organizations should be aware of these limitations when deploying SCEP and ensure they are following best practices for secure certificate management.