As per the research by Gartner, we spent about 10 billion dollars a year protecting human identities and just getting started with machine identities.
With the boom in digital transformation, the number of machines is going through the roof, and the number of people is relatively flat. Many cyber-crimes are happening online, and the machine identity threat is one of the most common attacks now. The cyber attackers are stealing machine identities and using them in their attacks because they know the attack surface is growing, and the machines are under-protected. With our increasing reliance on machines, we must protect them by validating and defending their identities.
What is Machine Identity?
There are two actors on a network-People and machines. People use usernames and passwords to identify themselves, and the machines use keys and certificates to identify and communicate with other devices securely. Machine identities protect the privacy, confidentiality, and integrity of information shared between machines. Like we use usernames and passwords, the machine uses keys and certificates to protect their unique identities. Any organization must have a proper machine identity management system to guarantee the confidentiality of information, protect the data and avoid data breaching.
How does Machine Identity work?
When we start a session with a web server, the server sends across its digital certificate and cryptographic keys in the encrypted form (TLS/SSL certificate) to us on receiving the connection request. We validate the certificate and authenticate the legitimacy of the server. With sensitive applications, the server sometimes also requests us to prove our identity by sharing its certificate. Once the authentication/verification is completed, the server and client exchange keys and the session gets established.
How Machine Identity helps in securing the company’s infrastructure and applications?
Machine identities are being used in a variety of ways:
1. Protecting web transactions: Digital certificates like SSL/TLS create an encrypted connection between a web browser and a web server. It helps in protecting the security of web transactions, such as ATM bank transactions, supermarket payments. It helps in securing the company’s infrastructure by providing security against cybercriminal/phishing attacks.
2. Protecting communications with/between other devices: Digital certificates help in protecting consumer devices such as mobiles, tablets, and Wi-Fi networks that serve as the foundation of authentication in protecting the private and secure communications between them.
3. Protecting the identity of connected things: Along with the machines, there are plenty of other devices such as docker, sensors, and other equipment that are connected to the machines and internet. All these comprise critical data that need to be protected from/against machine identities.
4. Protecting the data: It is the data that is the center of all those you know evolution that is happening to cyberspace because we depend on the data. It is the data that gives us information and intelligence. So, it is important to check the source and device from where the data is being received, and machine identity helps in the protection, and security of these devices, helping us to receive accurate and secure information.
5. The boom in the growth of machines: With digitalization, the number of machines is growing at an ever-increasing rate. With such an expansion of the number of machines, it has become a priority to secure the machine identities to avoid cyber-attacks.
What are the challenges to securing Machine Identities when employees work from home?
With pandemics and the increase in remote work opportunities, the security challenges are increasing many-fold times.
1. Misuse of controls: Employees use their work laptops/desktops for personal use and ignore the security policy. They disable options such as firewalls, device encryption, response, and antivirus software as they slow down the performance, which results in compromising security and privacy.
2. Misconception regarding the VPN: The most common misconception that people have/had is that it protects their data onto the connection to VPN. A VPN does not help in protecting the threat from cyber-attacks.
3. Lack of knowledge: Most of the employees in the WFH environment cannot recognize cyber-attacks, including fake alerts, phishing emails, that make them dig deeper into the world of cyber-crime.
4. Use of unknown devices: Employees remain unaware of the potential threats and use unknown devices to access the company’s data onto having proper encrypted security installed in it.
5. Unsecured Wi-Fi network: This is one of the major issues that companies are facing. Employees use unsecured public Wi-Fi for logging in to their work devices which results in another cybersecurity challenge.
How machine identities in different geo-locations are managed?
In the new WFH environment, users access the devices from various geographical locations, and different machine identities are managed here via IDM by tracking different factors of different devices and applications. These offerings offer comprehensive and detailed reporting solutions to authentication events, user’s geographic location, and the device used.
IDM is the process of keeping, tracing, and managing the digital identities of users and machines. It helps in discovery, maintenance, communications exchange, and assurance of a lot of other identity information.[GR1]
Our Thoughts on how Machine Identity helps in today’s work from home scenarios.
IAM technology helps in securely connecting the employees to the employer from any geographical location. Different IAM strategies help to securely connect employees in the WFH environment. [GR2]
As per the research done:
1. 98 percent of organizations depend on IAM strategies to keep their business secure in the WFH environment.
2. The size of IAM solutions builds/built depends on the organization of the organization. There is no fixed size that fits all the organizations.
3. Multi-factor authentication is another solution that most organization trusts. As per the survey, 62 percent of employers believe multi-factor authentication (MFA ) is the most effective way to secure their business.