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Table of contents
1.
Introduction to AWS Certificate Manager
2.
What are the benefits of AWS Certificate Manager?
3.
What are the characteristics of AWS Certificate Manager?
4.
What are the integrated services that ACM provides?
5.
How does ACM provide security and data protection?
6.
Frequently Asked Questions
6.1.
What is the use of SSL/TLS certificates?
6.2.
Differentiate between public and private certificates.
6.3.
What types of certificates can be created and managed with ACM?
7.
Conclusion
Last Updated: Mar 27, 2024

AWS Certificate Manager

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Introduction to AWS Certificate Manager

AWS Certificate Manager is used to manage, provision and deploy Secure Sockets Layer/ Transport Layer Security (SSL/TLS) certificates, both public and private, for use with AWS services and the internal connected resources. SSL/TLS certificates are used for securing network communications and establishing the identity of websites over the Internet and resources on private networks. AWS Certificate Manager saves users from the time-consuming manual process of purchasing, uploading, and renewing these certificates. AWS Certificate Manager (ACM) handles the complex tasks involved in the creation, storage, and renewal of public and private SSL/TLS certificates and keys that protect the AWS websites and applications. ACM can be used to quickly request a certificate, deploy it on ACM-integrated AWS resources, and handle certificate renewals.

Source: Link

What are the benefits of AWS Certificate Manager?

The benefits of availing this service are listed below:

  • Easy access to certificates - AWS Certificate Manager removes the time-consuming and error-prone steps involved in acquiring an SSL/TLS certificate for your website or application. Once the certificate is created, ACM also helps deploy the certification to enable SSL/TLS for the user’s website or application.
  • Free public certificates for ACM-integrated services There are no additional charges for provisioning public or private SSL/TLS certificates used with ACM-integrated services.
  • Managed certificate renewal - AWS Certificate Manager also manages the renewal process for the certificates managed in ACM and used with ACM-integrated services. 
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What are the characteristics of AWS Certificate Manager?

The characteristics of ACM certificates are described below:

  • Domain Validation (DV) - ACM certificates are domain validated, meaning that the ACM certificate’s subject field identifies a domain name. We can validate the ownership of an ACM certificate by using email or DNS.
  • Validity Period - The validity period for ACM certificates is 13 months (395 days).
  • Browser and Application Trust - All major browsers trust ACM certificates. Browsers that trust ACM certificates display a lock icon in their status or address bar when connected by SSL/TLS to sites that use ACM certificates. 
  • Managed Renewal and Deployment - ACM automatically manages the process of renewing ACM certificates and provisioning them after they are renewed. 
  • Multiple Domain Names - Each ACM certificate must include at least one fully qualified domain name (FQDN), additional names can be added if required. For example, we can request an ACM certificate for www.sample.com and add the name sample.com.
  • Algorithms - A certificate also specifies an algorithm and key size. 
  • Wildcard Names - ACM allows the users to use an asterisk (*) in the domain name to create an ACM certificate containing a wildcard name that can protect several sites in the same domain. For example, *.sample.com protects www.sample.com and images.sample.com.

 

The features of AWS Certificate Manager are discussed as follows:

  • Centrally manage certificates on the AWS Cloud - We can centrally manage SSL/TLS certificates provided by AWS Certificate Manager in an AWS Region from the AWS Management Console, AWS CLI, or AWS Certificate Manager APIs. 
  • Secure key management - AWS Certificate Manager is designed to protect and manage the private keys used with SSL/TLS certificates. 
  • Private certificate authority - AWS Certificate Manager (ACM) Private Certificate Authority (CA) is a managed private CA service that helps users easily and securely manage the private certificates’ lifecycle. It provides a highly-available private CA service without the upfront investment and ongoing maintenance costs of operating our own private CA or private CA hierarchy. 
  • Import third-party certificates - AWS Certificate Manager also makes it easier to import SSL/TLS certificates issued by third-party Certificate Authorities (CAs) and deploy them with Elastic Load Balancers, Amazon CloudFront distributions and APIs on Amazon API Gateway. Importing certificates doesn’t cost anything.
  • Integrated with other AWS cloud services - AWS Certificate Manager is combined with other AWS services so that users can provision an SSL/TLS certificate and deploy it. To deploy a certificate with an AWS resource, simply select the certificate we want from a drop-down list in the AWS Management Console. The AWS Certificate Manager then deploys the certificate to the specified resource.

Source: Link

What are the integrated services that ACM provides?

Many services are supported by the AWS Certificate Manager. We cannot install our ACM certificate or private ACM Private CA certificate directly on our AWS-based website or application. Multiple services support ACM certificates out of which some are discussed below:

  • Elastic Load Balancing - This service automatically distributes our incoming application traffic across multiple Amazon EC2 instances. Generally for serving secure content over SSL/TLS, load balancers require that SSL/TLS certificates should be installed on either the back-end Amazon EC2 instance or the load balancer. ACM is integrated with Elastic Load Balancing service to deploy ACM certificates on the load balancer. 
  • Amazon CloudFront - It is a web service that speeds up the distribution of our dynamic and static web content to end-users by delivering our content from a worldwide network of edge locations. When an end-user requests content we’re serving through CloudFront, the user is routed to the edge location that provides the lowest latency. CloudFront delivers the content if it is currently at that edge location; it retrieves the content from the Amazon S3 bucket or the web server that we identified as the definitive content source. For serving secure content over SSL/TLS, CloudFront requires that SSL/TLS certificates should be installed on either the the backed content source or the CloudFront distribution. ACM is integrated with CloudFront service to deploy ACM certificates on the CloudFront distribution.
  • Amazon Cognito - Amazon Cognito provides authentication, authorization, and user management for your web and mobile applications. When we configure a Cognito user pool to use an Amazon CloudFront proxy, CloudFront puts an ACM certificate in place to secure the custom domain. 
  • AWS Elastic Beanstalk - Elastic Beanstalk helps to deploy and manage applications in the AWS Cloud. This service uses the Elastic Load Balancing service to create a load balancer.
  • AWS App Runner - App Runner is an AWS service that provides a fast, simple, and cost-effective way to directly deploy from source code or a container image to a scalable and secure web application in the AWS Cloud. When we associate custom domain names with our App Runner service, it internally creates certificates that track domain validity. They’re stored in ACM. 
  • Amazon API Gateway - APIs can be easily created to access data and interact with the back-end systems on AWS. After we deploy our API to API Gateway, we can set up a custom domain name to simplify access to it. To set up a custom domain name, we must provide an SSL/TLS certificate which can be generated using ACM. 
  • AWS Nitro Enclaves - AWS Nitro Enclaves is an Amazon EC2 feature that allows us to create isolated execution environments - enclaves, from Amazon EC2 instances. ACM certificates are supported by EC2 instances connected to Nitro Enclaves.
  • AWS CloudFormation - It helps in modelling and setting up Amazon Web Services resources. ACM certificates are included as template resources, meaning that AWS CloudFormation can request ACM certificates that we can use with AWS services to enable secure connections.
  • Amazon OpenSearch Service - Amazon OpenSearch Service is a search and analytics engine for use cases such as log analytics, real-time application monitoring, and clickstream analysis. 

How does ACM provide security and data protection?

As described in the AWS shared responsibility model, AWS is responsible for protecting the global infrastructure that runs all of the AWS Cloud. Therefore, it is applicable to data protection in AWS Certificate Manager also. 

For data protection purposes, it is recommended that users should protect their AWS account credentials and set up individual accounts with AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM). In this way, each user is given only the permissions necessary to fulfil their job duties. Moreover, the data can also be secured in the following ways:

  • Using multi-factor authentication (MFA) with each account.
  • Using SSL/TLS to communicate with AWS resources. 
  • Setting up API and user activity logging with AWS CloudTrail.
  • Using AWS encryption solutions and all default security controls within AWS services.

 

AWS Certificate Manager generates the public/private key pair when we request a public certificate. For imported certificates, we ourselves generate the key pair. The public key later on becomes part of the certificate. ACM then stores the certificate and its corresponding private key and uses the AWS Key Management Service (AWS KMS) in the protection of the private key. 

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the use of SSL/TLS certificates?

SSL/TLS certificates allow web browsers to identify and establish encrypted network connections to web sites using the Secure Sockets Layer/Transport Layer Security (SSL/TLS) protocol. 

Differentiate between public and private certificates.

Private certificates identify resources on the private networks whereas, public certificates identify resources on the public Internet.

What types of certificates can be created and managed with ACM?

ACM enables the management of the lifecycle of our public and private certificates. 

Conclusion

In this article, we have discussed the AWS Certificate Manager along with its characteristics and the services integrated with the AWS Certificate Manager. We have also covered the security and data protection features offered by the AWS Certificate Manager.

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