What is ACME and How Does it Work? Importance of Automated Certificate Management

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What is Automated Certificate Management Environment Protocol

Securing online transactions and communication has become paramount today. Some digital security certificates, like SSL Certificate, are being used to shield your online identity. This has been proved helpful, but there’s also a crucial part of these certificates regarding management.

Just like your paper certificates, which are laminated and framed to protect them from dust and stain, digital certificates also need some care to authenticate the identities of websites, servers, and applications.

Manual management of these certificates is cumbersome and prone to errors. Thanks to ACME (Automated Certificate Management Environment) for making this process a breeze.

An automated certificate management environment (ACME) is a protocol that automates certificate issuance, renewal, and revocation. This makes the certificate management process easier and more efficient.

Internet Security Research Group developed ACME to streamline the process of obtaining and managing certificates, reduce error risks, and ensure that certificates are always up to date.

So, if you haven’t heard about ACME and are wondering how it works? We’ll discuss everything about automating Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) operations and the importance of automated certificate management.

Now, let’s get started…

What is ACME? How does it Work?

ACME stands for Automated Certificate Management Environment. It is an automation mechanism in the certificate issues and revokes process. This process helps automate issuing or renewing and controlling CA, control the certificate’s configuration, and speed up the deployment process.

The objective of ISRG is to develop a certificate lifecycle processor that is easy to deploy and operate, update with evolving cryptographic best practices, and adequately lightweight to load onto an embedded system or connect to a network via remote device without undue burden.

Certificate Request:

The process gets initiated as and when any client forwards a certificate request to the Certificate Authority (CA). A certificate request passes through domain validation by a CA while it consists of a domain name for which the certificate is required.

Challenge Respond Validation:

The CA responds with a challenge that the client must complete. The process is known as a challenge-response in which the client needs to succeed to prove domain ownership. This kind of challenge-and-response process ensures that no one else gets an unauthorized.

Certificate Issuance:

Once the challenge is successfully completed, the CA issues the certificate to the client.

Certificate Renewal:

ACMEN is also a feature that allows the automatic renewal of certificates. Clients are able to set an automated process through which, in case the previously issued certificate is nearing its expiry, a request for its renewal is made.

Certificate Revocation:

ACME provides a way through which in case of certificate revocation, the client can submit a request to the CA on the revocation.

The Top Benefits of PKI Operations

PKI, or public critical infrastructure, contains everything used to establish and manage public key encryption.

It includes hardware, software, policies, and procedures for creating, distributing, managing, storing, and revoking digital certificates.


Automation in PKI operations will be very smooth, meaning that the time allocated and effort in general accorded to certificate management will be reduced incredibly.

For example, issuance and renewal of certificates for every domain do not need to be done manually. Automated tools can well manage this, whereby administrators can pay attention to other key security duties.

Enhanced Security:

Automation drives the fact that certificates are applied uniformly and adhered to just like the rest of the security policies by virtue that they are always up to date with the recent changes. More specifically, automated monitoring tools are able to inherently locate the unauthorized or expired certificates and thus, the resultant security breaches.

Some Cost Savings:

The fewer the number of manual interventions the automation process may need, the less expensive it would be.

For instance, an entity stands to gain labor reduction not only from manually managing certificates but also from the inordinately expensive response to security incidents.

Better Compliance:

whether it is PCI DSS or GDPR standards from the industries or the compliance of a lot of organizations from their side, they come with various major goals.

For example, it may work on report automation for audits or the issuance and management of certificates to conform to set regulations.

Importance of Automated Certificate Management

ACM has extreme importance in modern companies today and continue to do so. It is the only aspect that does possess the ability to manage all digital operations automatically and securely. Here is a further detailed explanation with examples.


Automated management is not only a move away from exercises done manually but also a reduction in time wastage and resources attached.

For example, instead of tracking down certificate experience, expirations manually, and renewing them, auto tools are enabled to take of the two processes.

In this way, they have current certificates; this means that such chances of systems being down with an expired certificate are lessened.

Improved Security:

Better management of certificates through automation in every domain places the organization at a better standing for improved security, finally because of well-issued and managed certificates.

Automation, for instance, will place strong algorithms and big key lengths so that the development of data breaches is minimal.

Less Error:

When automation is integrated into place, there is a complete inability to have a chance for several human errors to creep up, during the manual issuance of certificates, for instance revoking certificate accidentally by a man attacker or even misconfigurations by same human attacker.


Automation of certificate management will allow organizations to keep up with different standards and conditions since it monitors that the pre-set criteria are adhered to.

For instance, automation can become a way to issue and manage certificates in accordance with the PCI DSS and HIPAA standards.


As any organization continues to grow in size, an increase in applications, users, domain names, and server instances calls for an even greater number of certificates by the same folds.

Flexible organizations employ automated certificate management that makes the certificate management features of the organization easily scalable.

For example, new server or application certificates may easily be issued and rolled out.

Cost Reduction:

The same achievement, when using manual intervention, for instance, will ensure less cost unfavorable to facilitating less time is spent on certificate management.

For instance, it will lead to organizations making savings in labor for the performance of manual certificate management tasks.

Capabilities of an Effective Certificate Lifecycle Platform

An effective certificate lifecycle platform should offer a comprehensive set of capabilities to manage the entire lifecycle of digital certificates efficiently and securely. Here are key features such a platform should provide:

  • Certificate Issuance: The capability of on-spot issuance of certificates according to the preset policies, so that correct certification is ensured of what in the IT world is called electronic.
  • Automated Certificate Renewal: The certificates shall be renewed automatically when they near expiry as long as they are on the list so as not to have the case of many expired certificates. The platform ensures that it does track the certificate validity.
  • Certificate Revocation: The system should still sustain the ability to allow for the automation of certificates in case they are compromised or any other security incident that has potential effects on the PKI infrastructure of the platform.
  • Respectable Security Policies Implementation: The platform has to maintain respective valid security policies for issuing renewals and cancelations of certificates; therefore, respects security policies of organizations.
  • Integration with Third-party Certificate Authorities: The Certificate Management System should properly work with those of the third-party Certificate Authorities as far as certificate issuance and management are concerned. This would include portions that would be handled by the CAs while assisting to interchange various protocols and APIs.
  • Key Management: The ability to properly and fairly securely remain on the handle keys, including Certificates appropriately, pertaining to Key Lifecycle Management.
  • Monitoring and Reporting: This feature could be used to monitor the status of certificate and report to the appropriate authority whether or not the security policy of the company has been met.


ACME and automated certificate management are crucial for simplifying and securing digital certificate operations. By automating certificate issuance, renewal, and revocation, organizations can improve efficiency, enhance security, and reduce errors.

Implementing an effective certificate lifecycle platform is essential for achieving these benefits. If you haven’t already, consider exploring automated certificate management solutions to streamline your operations and enhance your digital security.

The Sectigo Certificate Manager supports the ACME protocol for a full automated certificate lifecycle management.

Janki Mehta

Janki Mehta

Janki Mehta is a Cyber-Security Enthusiast who constantly updates herself with new advancements in the Web/Cyber Security niche. Along with theoretical knowledge, she also implements her practical expertise in day-to-day tasks and helps others to protect themselves from threats.