How Machine Identities Are The Foundation Of Our Digital World

June 20th · 3 min read

Guardio Research Team
Guardio Research Team

Computer systems are the foundation of our digital world.

They enable us to communicate, collaborate, and conduct business. Yet, as our reliance on computer systems has grown, so has the risk of cyberattacks.

The recent string of high-profile cyberattacks - from the WannaCry ransomware attack to the Equifax data breach - have underscored the need for better security. One of the keys to better security is protecting machine identities.

What are machine identities?

Machine identities are the digital certificates and keys that machines use to authenticate and communicate with each other. They include everything from the SSL/TLS certificates that secure our web browsers to the SSH keys that provide access to our servers.

Attackers are increasingly targeting machine identities because they provide a way to bypass traditional security measures. For example, in the Equifax data breach, attackers gained access to the company's systems by exploiting an Apache Struts web application vulnerability. Once they had access, they used valid machine identities to move laterally across the network and access sensitive data.

The problem is that machine identities are often not well-protected. In many cases, they're stored in the same location as the protected systems, making them vulnerable to attack.

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How to protect machine identities

To better protect machine identities, organizations need to implement a comprehensive security solution that includes the following:

  • Certificate management - Organizations should use a centralized certificate management solution to store and manage their machine identities. This will make it easier to keep track of certificates and keys and ensure that they're appropriately rotated and revoked when needed.

  • Access control - Organizations should restrict access to machine identities to only those who need it. This will help reduce the risk of unauthorized access and misuse.

  • Monitoring - Organizations should monitor their machine identities for signs of compromise. This includes monitoring for suspicious activity, such as certificate signing requests from unfamiliar IP addresses or unexpected changes to certificate data.

  • Security policy enforcement - Organizations should enforce security policies for their machine identities. This includes requiring strong passwords and limiting the number of failed login attempts.

  • Backup and recovery - Organizations should have a plan to back up and recover their machine identities. This plan should include regular backups and a way to restore lost quickly or corrupted data.

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Automated Machine Identity Management Is Becoming More Difficult Than Ever Before

As the number of devices and applications that rely on machine identities continues to grow, so does the challenge of managing them. More organizations turn to automation to help manage their machine identities.

There are several different machine identity management solutions on the market, but not all are created equal. When choosing a solution, it's essential to consider the following:

  • Ease of use: The solution should be easy and require minimal training.
  • Compatibility: The solution should be compatible with your organization's existing IT infrastructure.
  • Scalability: The solution should be able to scale as your organization's needs grow.
  • Flexibility: The solution should be flexible enough to accommodate future changes.
  • Security: The solution should provide robust security features, such as data encryption and access control.

The basic structure for our digital world is built on the foundations of computer identities. They're used to authenticate and communicate with devices and applications, and they play a critical role in securing our online transactions.

However, machine identities are often not well-protected, making them vulnerable to attack.

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