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Machine Identity and Digital Certificate Management

With the emergence of computer systems and, later, the internet, people and organizations have begun to use these resources to speed up their tasks and make their lives easier. Thus, performing activities for both business and personal life (such as shopping and personal network) are based on the consumption of resources and services.

In order to control access to computational and internet resources, users depend mainly on the username and password approach, which has always been used to verify identity and validate access. Some examples of identity verification in the physical world include IDs, passports, or identification badges. The main goals of this approach are: to improve the user experience, protect privacy, establish accountability control for actions taken, or even achieve compliance with access control policies and regulations. It is also worth mentioning that the new and stricter compliance requirements regarding data protection have created demands for security teams. Besides, malicious attackers have also evolved in response to new solutions and innovations in the cybersecurity aspect.

Over the years, the issue of identity management has become more complex than simply checking the username and password combination. As a result, identity verification methods have evolved into more robust forms, such as OTP (or One Time Password), biometrics (which, in addition to fingerprinting, includes iris or palm recognition and, more recently, the user behavior) and digital certificates. 

It is worth remembering that even with all technological innovations in the last 20 years, the combination of username and password remains the most common way to verify users’ identities. 

Digital transformation, including Industry 4.0, IoT, in addition to smart cities and smart homes, has brought billions of connected devices with it. According to Gartner, there are currently more than 20 billion connected devices, such as smart TVs, industrial machines, and endpoints in an increasingly complex infrastructure. 

Many of these devices use X.509 or SSL/TLS digital certificates to establish trust in the digital environment, and they must be identified, have their legitimacy validated and their respective identities confirmed to protect them from the action of malicious agents. As we have talked about in our article on digital certificates, these are electronic documents that associate the identity of people, organizations, devices, or applications, and are the basis for machine identity. These devices, in addition to being increasingly connected to each other, have the ability to handle large volumes of data and share them with other connected devices. However, while playing a critical role in digital transformation, little or nothing has been done in organizations to protect machine identities. 

One of the trends associated with the increase in machine identities is linked to the DevOps sphere. Speed, agility, efficiency, and scalability are some of the aspects involved in this technology. The containers and microservices associated with DevOps need to communicate securely with each other on the network. In this way, organizations need solutions to protect machine identities in their DevOps environments. Moreover, the increase in the number of open APIs adds even more complexity and reinforces the idea that each machine must have its own identity.

The adoption of Cloud environments – now intensified with remote teams – will continue to grow as well. In this type of environment, machines are dynamically created, configured, and destroyed to meet business requirements. To protect this environment and the data generated by it, organizations must adopt solutions that encrypt data in the cloud and adequately protect identities and communication between machines.

In addition to Cloud, other technologies associated with the increase of machine identities are automation – including Robotic Process Automation and Privileged Task Automation – and Artificial Intelligence. These approaches have generated great efficiency gains and revolutionized the execution of well-defined and routine business processes. Thus, it is necessary to adopt measures to protect the identities in these algorithms, in order to ensure the security and integrity of these technologies.

Another important trend linked to machine credentials is the Internet of Things, including Industry 4.0 (also called IIoT or Industrial Internet of Things), whose use has escalated in recent years, having its communication based on keys and digital certificates. Nevertheless, according to the latest news of cyberattacks on these technologies, it is possible to realize that the manufacturers of such devices have prioritized operation over security, which makes the challenges for their proper protection increasingly greater. One example is the theft of digital certificates from D-Link and Changing Information Technologies, which took place in 2018. Through the misuse of these certificates, a group of hackers was able to use them in cyber espionage actions in Asia, specifically in Taiwan.

Finally, the spread of mobile devices has created enormous pressure on organizations to adequately protect the communication of these devices between themselves and the different networks. And again, organizations have failed to address this problem properly.

The exponential increase in devices and technologies has caused the number of digital certificates in the environment to skyrocket. Managing them properly has become a very difficult task for Information Security teams; and spreadsheets, which were previously used to control aspects such as quantity, visibility, and maturity, have become unviable. 

For this management to be effective and digital certificates to be orchestrated in an increasingly complex environment, software solutions have been developed with the goal of protecting the encryption keys used in digital certificates. Global losses from improper management of machine identities are estimated to be up to USD 72 billion.

Thus, one of the means to ensure the proper management of digital certificates in the environment is by using the implementation of a Certificate Management solution, such as senhasegura Certificate Management. 

Being fully integrated with the senhasegura platform, senhasegura Certificate Management allows centralized management of the entire lifecycle of digital certificates within the organization, from the discovery – through automatic scanning of websites, directories, and web servers – to the renewal of a certificate by external or internal CAs.

Therefore, senhasegura Certificate Management allows one to reduce unavailability due to certificate expiration or human errors during the publication, in addition to automating the management of the certificate’s lifecycle. The senhasegura Certificate Management APIs allow complete integration with other solutions within an organization, as well as an increase in the security level of applications with secure certificates, respecting the organization’s prerequisites and security policies.


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