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Key and certificate Audit Findings

Auditors are focusing on machine identities. Are you ready?

For years, it’s been an auditing best practice to assess how human identities are protected in the enterprise. In the age of digital transformation, a new question is being asked: How is the enterprise protecting and managing machine identities? Organizations are using internal and external audits to routinely inspect key and certificate security, as they enable machine-to-machine authentication.

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Turn your audit into a security advantage

Audits that assess the security of SSL/TLS keys and certificates, SSH keys, and mobile and user certificates are more than just a checkbox or a drain on time and resources. They provide you an opportunity to quantify the risk of potential outages and security breaches that may be caused by weak machine identity protection. Audits also enable stronger and more resilient systems.

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You can’t audit what you can’t find

When faced with an audit, most organizations don’t know where their keys and certificates are located, who requested them, how they are being used or even who owns them. Many organizations also have difficulty identifying how these machine identities were obtained and configured.

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Often, audit findings focus on items like SSH keys that haven’t been rotated for long periods or on certificates that haven’t been appropriately configured to use strong encryption for internal or self-signed certificates. But remediating these types of findings is complex and danger-prone, with potential impacts on production systems and internal infrastructure.

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Keep everything on track: Automate remediation before audits happen

The first step in avoiding audit finding is to maintain enterprise-wide visibility into the use of keys and certificates, which allows you to:

  • Demonstrate where keys and certificates are used across development streams and CI/CD pipelines.
  • Ensure that keys and certificates can be accounted for and that they are visible.
  • Demonstrate that you have insight into metadata on each machine identity.
  • Document key and certificate usage in machines, applications and devices of all types.
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This level of visibility helps you avoid any number of audit findings. But what if findings occur based on the configuration, management or usage of your keys and certificates? You need a machine identity protection platform with intelligent automation that allows you to:

  • Identify impacted systems and triage possible downstream impacts.
  • Enable safe remediation practices that are monitored and controlled.
  • Create reports on remediation progress and next steps.
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Audit findings open the door to process improvements

Obviously, you don’t want your organization or team to be on the receiving end of audit findings that raise concerns. If or when such findings do occur, the overriding imperative will be to get things back into a known-good and auditable state as quickly as possible.

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Savvy security and risk teams, however, use these issues to make improvements. While audit findings can hurt, they can also help make a case for the pursuit of “continual compliance” as well as the kind of enterprise-wide machine identity protection such compliance requires. This, in turn, allows PKI, security and operations teams an opportunity to focus on improving the business, freeing up time they would otherwise spend on chasing audit findings.

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