As organizations are adopting cloud-first strategies to evolve almost every aspect of their digital business, they are beginning to realize the importance of cloud native machine identities. Merely focusing the discussion of getting machine identities for all our cloud workloads may distract us from another critical point, their proper management. Given the exponential growth of machine identities, their management proves to be of vital importance. Poor cloud native machine identity management can be disastrous and can lead to cybersecurity gaps and serious exposure. If you neglect your machine identities, you will face undesirable outcomes.
Packed but fragile
The cloud evolution led to the explosion of cloud native machines. An army of compact, “lightweight” entities that exist in the cloud and interact with each other continuously and in multiple ways. Developers are happy with these self-contained, flexible, agile, adaptable, portable, OS insensitive entities, as they make their lives easier.
The advantages of these entities, though, may become the Achilles' heel for the environment where they exist. Their extensive proliferation in the cloud led to their exponential population growth. Nowadays almost every big business and organization make use of cloud native machines. This increases drastically the cyber surface that needs to be protected; it also grows the area a cybercriminal may exploit. Misconfigured and expired certificates and vulnerable ingress endpoints are some of “your organization’s security test points” for any aspiring cybercriminal.
To make it more complicated, add to the blend the rapid change of the cloud infrastructure’s state, known as configuration drift. Being an elastic environment, the cloud changes its shape and structure every single second. The addition and removal of cloud entities contribute to the configuration drift and impact the effectiveness of machine identity management.
No doubt, cloud-based machine identities increase drastically our exposure to cyber threats. The significance of valid certificates is paramount, and so are the risks. Proper cloud native identity management is not a nice to have choice; it is a necessity.
Ways to enhance cloud native machine identity security
Every single business and organization dealing with the cloud ecosystem has to treat and manage machine identities in a way that adheres to the security policies and reliability standards. There is no room for bad performers; incomplete management of machine identities leads to disproportionate risks and security challenges.
For that reason, businesses must protect machine identities because they are precious assets. In an ideal world, there would be no holes left for the cybercriminals, but in reality, things are deflected and not so perfect. The result: incomplete, poor management, forgotten and expired machine identities, cyber-attacks, ransomware, and potential loss of production and revenue.
Monitoring the health status of the ingress resources and the certificates in use is paramount. It is also important to be able to observe and audit the usage of self-signed certificates, whether certificates are issued by an approved CA, and how the defined policies are followed.
What can your organization do about that?
There are a lot of companies that fully rely on their AppSec teams to align to the policies and standards. The truth is that policies can be considered multi-layered and can be applied and enforced at different levels, irrespective of who is liable for their control and report. As more cloud solutions are adopted, policies can be delegated to developers and tools, and still maintain enforcement. The benefit is that platform teams can enforce policies much earlier in the development lifecycle, whilst the AppSec teams can continue to report at the enterprise level.
Many organizations use cert-manager, a solution developed by Jetstack experts at Venafi. Developers have found that cert-manager is a great way to issue and replace machine identities within the cluster. If the cluster footprint increases though, you’ll need an analogous control plane able to manage all cert-managers from a single place and to control things like mTLS between clusters.
Many businesses use both cert-manager and HashiCorp Vault—where a central vault is used as a CA to issue certificates and to store all secrets. Vault works with cert-manager to fulfill certificate requests and provides visibility to all issued certificates. What the vault can’t do is provide contextual information from allcert-managers across all clusters. Therefore, a more powerful tool is needed.
The TLS Protect for Kubernetes solution
It would be nice if there was a platform that could perform numerous security tasks: automate security procedures, provide incidents’ early warning notification, act as a watchkeeper for Ingress inside the cluster, and enforce workload security across the service mesh.
Venafi TLS Protect for Kubernetes helps AppSec and InfoSec teams to overcome cloud native machine identity management difficulties. No more deploying cert-manager instances across multiple platforms and losing track of them. No more being in the dark about which ones are running the most stable version, or manually investigating numerous instances to find the answer—or ignoring the question altogether.
Contact Venafi today to learn how easily you can enforce consistent policies across container environments that are using cert-manager.