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5 Ways that Automation Improves Machine Identity Protection

5 Ways that Automation Improves Machine Identity Protection

automating key management
August 22, 2018 | Scott Carter

Whether your organization is trying to prevent machine identity attacks, reduce data breaches or stop certificate-related outages, there’s a lot riding on the effectiveness of your machine identity protection program. But to create an effective program, you need technology specifically designed to address the unique management and security challenges of machine identities.

Try using manual methods to control today’s dynamic machine identities and you’ll quickly become frustrated and overwhelmed. Automating management and security processes is the most effective way to build and maintain a successful machine identity protection program. Automation allows you to orchestrate a set of rapid actions that can be focused on a single machine identity or an entire group of identities at machine speed.

Here are five things an automated machine identity program can help you with:

  1. Secure the entire machine identity life cycle
    Using manual processes to deploy, install, rotate, and replace machine identities is inherently error-prone and resource intensive. You will probably find it nearly impossible to manually track the progress of complex, multi-step processes across multiple systems. Here’s why: to manually deploy a new certificate, an administrator must generate a new key pair, generate a certificate signing request (CSR), submit the CSR to a Certificate Authority (CA), retrieve the issued certificate and CA certificate chain from the CA, install the certificate and CA chain, configure the application, and often restart the application. The certificate and private key may also need to be installed on multiple systems if you're using clustering or load balancing. Automation will help you dramatically simplify this process and ensure security at every step.
     
  2. Enforce strong certificate security policies
    Automation is a critical capability that will help you consistently enforce your organization's corporate machine identity policies and applicable regulatory requirements. For the best results, automated policy enforcement should drive every aspect of your machine identities, including configuration, issuance, use, ownership, management, security, and decommissioning. With these capabilities, you can automatically revoke and replace any machine identities that don't conform to appropriate policies. Plus, you'll have the flexibility to enforce machine identity policies in a variety of ways: globally, by logical group, or by individual identity.
     
  3. Streamline and expedite remediation
    Automation also gives you the agility to rapidly respond to critical security events such as a CA compromise or zero-day vulnerability in a cryptographic algorithm or library. For example, if a large-scale security event occurs, automation is the only way you can quickly make bulk changes to all affected certificates, private keys, and CA certificate chains. Automation is also the fastest way to remediate more focused security events, such as replacing a compromised certificate that's used across multiple machines.
     
  4. Validate that certificates are properly installed and working correctly
    Because machine identities include a complex set of variables, determining whether they're properly installed and configured is difficult if you're using manual installation. Validating the installation and proper use of machine identities is complicated because they're stored and used across a diverse range of devices, applications, and containers. But without access to this information, you won't be able to tell whether any configuration changes you make will impact the security and operation of your machine identities. Automation can also validate that every machine identity is installed properly and working correctly. Ongoing validation ensures that your machine identities continue to be effectively managed and secured.
     
  5. Continuously monitor the strength and security of your certificates
    Machine identity intelligence loses its value if it only represents a single point in time. Automating your intelligence gathering is the only way to continually monitor the security and health of your machine identities. Plus, when your intelligence is automatically updated, you can generate alerts when anomalies or vulnerabilities are detected. In particular, you’ll want to look for rapid change on cloud and virtual servers, software update failures, unauthorized CAs and insecure DevOps test certificates that are inadvertently rolled out to production.

When you've set up your machine identity protection program to continually capture the information you need, you can rely on that intelligence to drive automated actions. The more machine identity management and security processes that can be reliably automated, the more benefits you see—from fewer errors to a reduction in management resources and better security.

If you’d like to learn more about automating machine identity protection, download Machine Identity Protection for Dummies.

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About the author

Scott Carter
Scott Carter

Scott is Senior Manager for Content Marketing at Venafi. With over 20 years in cybersecurity marketing, his expertise leads him to help large organizations understand the risk to machine identities and why they should protect them

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