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Securing Machine Identities Needs to Be a Top Cybersecurity Goal in 2024 [Updated]

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Since the pandemic took over, digital transformation has risen at an unprecedented rate. Many employees have been forced to work remotely part-time or full-time. This has increased the dependency of businesses on computerized machinery that can handle business operations.

What are Machine Identities?

To use hardware devices connected to your company’s network, your electrical device must be validated for sending and receiving messages to that network. This is the work of machine identity, which verifies that your device is part of the network and enables encryption of messages.

Machine identity is involved in communication between millions of devices without human interaction. These include robotic process automation bots, robots used in various sectors, including business and government, and IoT equipment. Such tech tools form an integral part of the networks of several organizations.

According to Forrester’s webinar, How to Secure and Govern Non-Human identities, 2.25 million robots became a part of the global workforce in 2019, double the value as compared to 2018. Software bots are the rapidly evolving automation category, with 36 % of these bots being used in the finance and banking sector, 15% in IT, and 15% in business.

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Why Can Machine Identities Become a Potential Threat?

More than 50% of enterprise owners are finding it difficult to secure machine identities. With machine identities becoming increasingly difficult to secure, they’ve provided open spaces for hackers and cybercriminals to take advantage of.

Bots provide a perfect secure spot for hackers, allowing them to infiltrate networks and steal vital information from organization hardware. They remain untraceable for years until a big problem builds up for the targeted enterprise.

The Need for a Centralized Identity Access Management

Businesses, including those providing digital marketing services, are increasingly at risk from cybercriminals because they aren’t using a proper identity access management technique that helps in securing all of their equipment and machine identities. This makes machine identities form the vulnerable spots of a network’s security of a business.

A centralized identity access management legitimates business network access according to pre-defined policies and examines and approves digital or user identities. This gives companies better control over human and non-human access to their resources.

According to a study on machine identity attacks published by Venafi in October 2020, machine identity cyberattacks increased by more than 400% between 2018 and 2019 alone. The exploitation of machine identities through malware has seen twice an increment between 2018 and 2019 and over 300% between the years 2015 and 2019. Even business bots have been the target of cybercrime, with 81% of businesses stating that they face manipulated bots daily, derived from Kount’s 2020 Bot Landscape and Impact study.

Factors Causing Increased Exposure of Smart Devices to Bot-net Attacks

The following factors prove that machine identities are susceptible to botnet or identity attacks.

1. The Use of Default Security Credentials in Smart Devices leading to the Mirai Botnet Attack

Mirai was a malware designed to attack Wi-Fi-connected devices. It can quickly hack into an IoT device or computer machine by trying a collection of key usernames and passwords. Those smart devices that run on default software credentials can be easily accessed by Mirai botnets.

By spreading into multiple machines, it makes networks of controllable bots called botnets. With the help of these botnets, the Mirai malware can launch DDoS attacks. In September 2016, the malware was responsible for causing the shutdown of a domain registration service provider, Dyn.

2. Failure of Businesses to Keep Records of Software Bots used

Not keeping track of all bots used in your company makes another hiding spot for hackers to conduct their malevolent activities. Rather than using bots of their own, they depend on business bots to remain untraceable in networks. A big North American insurance company had utilized 400 software bots in chatbots handling online customer interactions and for controlling other processes, mentioned in Forrester’s webinar.

Security

Steps to Take for Strengthening Machine Security

1. Keep Track of Ownership of all Digital Certificates

The first step in enhancing the security of all of your smart applications is to identify the owners of your digital devices’ security keys and certificates. This includes Secured Socket Layer clients and server certificates, Transport Layer Security certificates, Secure Socket Shell, code signing certificates, and cryptographic keys.

Such digital certificates must be kept up to date to prevent any kind of opportunity for cyberattacks.

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2. Manage Machine Identity Authentication Process by using a Zero-Trust Model

A zero-trust model requires following the principle of least privilege in your company’s network. This means that every hardware or digital component connected to the network has only enough access to resources required for fulfilling its task.

Following this principle will help to restrict the spreading of cyberattacks from a network and will prevent access to vital systems or data.

3. Adopting a Privileged Identity Management Strategy for a Scalable and Adaptive Organization Securing Strategy

API calls are used for making short-term interactions between digital devices, machines, or apps for fulfilling a task. Similarly, a privileged identity management strategy makes security credentials for a limited time to access resources in a network. Once a task is complete, the credentials and account history are deleted so that unauthorized access is prevented.

This is essential as there are several computer items in use 24/7 that access different network devices, including clients and servers. Protection of an organization’s networks requires that short-term and unique security credentials are utilized for every access.

With the help of privileged identity management, machine-to-client or machine interactions can be controlled according to set conditions and rules. The renowned companies that provide PIM solutions mentioned by the Forrester webinar include Centrify, BeyondTrust, and HashiCorp.

Conclusion

With the number of digital and smart devices growing exponentially, keeping them secure from cybercrime has become a top priority. This involves using security measures that allow machine identities to use resources momentarily according to set requirements, bringing better access control.

CISOs have to focus on implementing privileged identity management and identity access management systems till the bot and computer level. Non-human identities play a vital role in the security of your organization from cybercriminals.