Machine authentication can address the growing power of machines and their ability in providing hackers with new entryways.
Computer communications are changing, and system security must change as well. Traditionally, corporate security focused on human interactions with computer systems. With the volume of tasks being completed by machines now rising, the need for new machine-centric authentication solutions has emerged.
When logging on, individuals rely on user names and passwords to authenticate themselves and gain access to corporate networks and confidential data. But humans are not the only group that interacts with corporate systems. Machines also collaborate, and the volume of those interactions is rising dramatically.
What Companies Have Now
Machine communications come in two varieties: physical and virtual. The best-known type of exchange revolves around tasks, such as making a network connection, that are completed by desktop, laptop, server and mobile devices.
Some security checks are in place with these systems. IT asset management solutions use directories and mobile device management systems to recognize devices. But their focus is only on tracking assets. These solutions use features, such as barcodes and deviceIDs, to identify machines but do not perform a vital task: device authentication. So, a machine may be an imposter.
With the internet of things (IoT) taking root, the number of machines using corporate resources is growing at a rapid clip. Business consulting firm Bain & Co. expects spending on IoT devices to reach $450 billion in 2020.
In addition, virtual machine interactions are becoming more common. Software is becoming smarter and more processes are being automated. Companies are using artificial intelligence and machine learning to build complex application services and integrations that autonomously perform various tasks.
Shortcomings in Today’s Solutions
Machine connections are appealing targets for criminals because right now, little is done to safeguard these connections. Companies spend over $9 billion protecting human identities (IAM), but almost nothing protecting machine identities.
The hackers are taking advantage of the new entryways. Nearly half of U.S. firms deploying IoT devices have been hit by a security breach, according to a survey by consulting firm Altman, Vilandrie & Co.
A security checkpoint is needed for machines. They cannot manually enter user names and passwords, so a different approach is needed. Machine identity is the emerging application genre that applies familiar privileged access management (PAM) concepts, such as including identity, authentication, RBAC, least-privilege, auditing, etc., to non-human entities: devices, automated processes, services and containers.
Securing Machine Interactions
Managing and protecting machine identities is a multi-step process. Organizations need to craft new business processes that ensure every machine interaction is authenticated and protected. They also require security software and tools so the identity keys are registered, provisioned and managed. Let’s take a close look at what is needed.
Recognize Machine Identities: Behind every application, service or microservice is a machine that needs to be secured. To gain a complete picture of everything that needs to be protected, IT must work with all business units and complete a thorough audit of all servers, applications, services and APIs within their business ecosystem.
Identify Legitimate Devices: A user name and password makes sense for humans but not for machines. Here, digital keys and certificates, which are a part of the public key infrastructure, are a good fit. The keys must be stored in secure vaults or key stores, and devices dynamically fetch them as needed. Companies need to be able to manage the entire machine and key/certificate life cycle. They should also replace passwords and key values from scripts and applications with PKI authentication.
Complete Endpoint Visibility: Given the large volume of devices, businesses need to consolidate all of their machine assets, including certificates and keys, into a single integrated view.
Automate and Integrate: It is impossible to manually manage machine identities because the volume, speed and scale at which machines communicate is overwhelming. Enterprises need solutions that automated certification management, identify anomalies and help IT troubleshoot and remediate any potential problems.
Enforce Corporate Security Policies for Machines: We have learned to apply a whole plethora of security policies to our user identities—password policies, access policies, etc. It is also important to apply intelligent policies to your machines (and, most importantly, automate this) so that you don’t have machines behaving in unexpected ways.
Technology evolves dynamically, and security processes need to change along with it. The nature of computer interactions is moving toward more machine interactions. To protect corporate data, enterprises need to put new security checks in place and machine identity solutions are a good place to start.