What Is Machine Identity Management?

Anyone trying to strengthen their cybersecurity efforts should definitely take a look into this robust approach.
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After the pandemic hit, the entire business world increased the rate at which it adopted new technologies. Thus, we went from digital transformation processes to digital acceleration journeys, from slow and steady implementation of technology to quick and iterative adoption. The idea is to get what both digital transformation and digital acceleration promise: higher business agility to meet the demands of the new normal.

While digital acceleration is certainly the way to go today, it isn’t without its challenges. One of the most notorious ones is cybersecurity and the maximized threat of attack on an increasingly bigger digital surface. In other words, the exponential growth of digitized platforms and connected machines multiplies the potential vulnerabilities in any given environment. That’s the main reason why cybersecurity has quickly climbed to the top of executives’ concerns.

Moved by that worry, software development teams, freelance engineers, Python development services, consulting firms, and many others in the software industry have started devising ways to tackle the new security challenges. The increased use of multi-factor authentication, the rise of AI-assisted security, and the widespread adoption of Zero Trust are all responses to the new cybersecurity landscape. 

Here, I’ll discuss another approach that’s having its time in the spotlight, thanks to how useful it can be to strengthen cybersecurity. I’m talking about machine identity management.

What’s Machine Identity Management?

A key to keeping security threats in check is to properly manage authentication in any given business environment. Monitoring the interactions between different machines and digital platforms in your entire network is the best way to ensure that there aren’t intruders roaming around it. The correct approach to this is through the use of cryptographic keys and digital certificates as unique identities for each intervening part.

In a certain way, those unique identities are like fingerprints, in that they unequivocally identify a particular machine to establish trust, carry out authentication processes, and encrypt communications. In this context, machine identity management implies the constant evaluation and assessment of machine identities within a given network to provide a more robust access and permission scheme.

Managing the unique identities within the network can guarantee the confidentiality of the data that flows between authorized machines while also preventing an unauthorized machine from accessing it. Additionally, proper machine identity management should also be on the lookout for forged or stolen machine identities.

The sheer complexity of modern business networks and the increased number of connected devices make it highly important for companies to have potent and dynamic management that orchestrates different policies, controls, and security tools. That’s what machine identity management is all about.

Why You Need Machine Identity Management

I’ve already pointed out the need for new approaches to cybersecurity given the increasing digitization of businesses and the exponential growth of interconnected devices. That context should be enough for companies to start using as many security measures as possible, machine identity management included. But that’s not the only reason why you should consider using it. There are also several benefits that come with machine identity management, including:

  • It supports Zero Trust strategies. Given that the Zero Trust approach implies never granting trust automatically, it needs a way to provide access control, privileges, and permissions. Machine identity management can help with that, as it can use Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) certificates and cryptographic key pairs to carry out the verification processes Zero Trust strategies need to function. 
  • It prevents machine identity theft. If someone is able to steal or forge your keys, they can quickly break into your systems and get sensitive data out of them. With machine identity management, you’ll have control practices in place that reduce the likelihood of someone stealing your private keys because they are never transmitted and aren’t stored centrally. 
  • It increases visibility all across the board. Digital acceleration and remote work will multiply the number of connected devices within your network. Using machine identity management solutions can help you closely monitor all of them, including mobile, cloud, and IoT devices.
  • It strengthens your security when connecting with new or outsider machine identities. Machine identity management can be easily automated, which can result in tighter control of all connected devices, including those that aren’t a part of your ecosystem (such as machines from suppliers or new devices coming into the infrastructure).

Digital Identities as a Way to Replace Passwords

I want to end this article by pointing out one more thing: how secure identities actually are, especially when you compare them to passwords. Malicious actors can now easily break or steal passwords, mostly because most people still don’t adopt strong password habits. Additionally, passwords are centrally stored in repositories or can be captured while being in transit over the internet. 

Digital identities (especially PKI certificates) reduce all those risks by using a public/private key pair generated by a cryptographic algorithm. Then authentication can happen when the machine proves it has the private key—without revealing it or sharing it over the network. That greatly limits the opportunities for malicious actors to intercept keys and break into your systems. 

Thus, you can see machine identity management as a good strategy to replace passwords within your environment, which will strengthen your cybersecurity even more. I think that machine identity management has a lot of potential to it, mainly because it brings evolution to security practices while also providing a necessary foundation for more sophisticated cybersecurity measures to thrive.

Hopefully, machine identity management will get more traction as we move forward into the new normal, a place where we’ll definitely need new standards.

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