Managing digital access to corporate resources has become more challenging for information security teams due to an expanding distributed workforce and the proliferation of connected devices, such as smartphones, wearables, medical devices, tablets, cameras and other Internet-of-Things (IoT) enabled devices. Each of these devices, also referred to as machines, has a digital identity. And each of those identities needs to be actively managed and protected.
As technology advances and more business is performed in the cloud, the number and types of machine identities will only increase. To mitigate the challenges associated with managing machine identity access, mature cybersecurity programs should assess the trustworthiness of each identity before allowing access to corporate resources. In this article we look at the importance of device trust.
Device trust and verifying machine identities
One of the primary reasons for ensuring that an organization can trust the many devices seeking to access their network is because connected devices are attractive targets for cybercriminals. If a cybercriminal compromises a device and gains access to the corporate environment, they can steal data, engage in a ransomware attack or carry out a malware campaign.
To establish trust in a device, organizations must have visibility into all connected devices and the ability to verify their identity before allowing access to cloud resources. Machine identities are used to establish trusted communications between machines. Each time a machine requires a connection to another machine, it must first identify itself so that the other machine can make an authorization decision and either approve or deny the request.
Organizations should verify the security posture of a device before granting access to corporate resources. This is especially true when employees use their personal devices to access company resources. In many cases, it’s mutually beneficial for employers to allow employees to perform their work using their own devices, however, this increases the organization’s security risk.
Risk mitigation solutions should include securing access to corporate resources from a diverse variety of devices without compromising productivity and efficiency. In addition to well-written, transparent, and widely disseminated policies that establish the rules for BYOD, organizations must identify a strategy for establishing device trust. The principles of Zero Trust security provide the framework to accomplish this.
Device trust and Zero Trust security
Zero Trust – based on the concept of “never trust, always verify” – treats trust as a vulnerability. Many organizations are moving to Zero Trust security where all users and their devices are authenticated and authorized before receiving access to corporate resources; they are also continuously validated to retain access to the resources. This is necessary because employees are accessing an organization’s network from various endpoints dispersed anywhere—from private homes and coffee shops to public libraries.
Static, one-time approaches to authentication can be risky as the risk environment may quickly change. Instead, continuous identity verification to access any resource is the only viable solution for establishing device trust and giving organizations confidence in the devices that are accessing their resources.
Machine identity management for cloud access
To implement a Zero Trust strategy, organizations with mature cybersecurity programs use machine identity management. Verifying the identity of a device or a machine is the foundation of securing access to company resources, to include workloads that process data in the cloud.
Organizations are also faced with overcoming the challenge of properly managing identities seeking access. Without the proper management of machine identities, the confidentiality of data transmitted to authorized machines may be compromised. To mitigate this risk, organizations must actively monitor connected devices to facilitate management and protection of the keys and certificates.
Real-time monitoring, reporting and alerting are crucial for organizations to manage risks associated with permitting access to their resources in the cloud. Such risks include financial, operational and reputational damage. Therefore, it is critical that organizations include machine identity management as part of their overall cybersecurity and identity and access management strategies.
Because machines are increasingly connected to each other, they now have the ability to collect and share vast amounts of data, including sharing data that is sensitive with other machines. Organizations must be able to establish trust in users and devices (managed and unmanaged) before granting access to their corporate assets and resources. The goal should be to make it nearly impossible for unauthorized users, insecure devices or compromised machine identities to access company resources.
Organizations should explore options that leverage industry standards and best practices to achieve this goal. Choosing the right option will depend on the organization’s risk tolerance and ability to invest in a sophisticated tool that automates machine identity management. Click here to learn how Venafi Trust Protection Platform can help you automate machine identity management.