Earlier this year, a report from ResearchAndMarkets.com revealed that the automation-as-a-service market is slated to grow from $1.80 billion last year to $6.23 billion by 2022. A major factor behind such growth is the need for organisations to 'automate' or mechanize' processes that are repetitive in nature so as to increase efficiency and to save time.
At the same time, automation allows organisations to maintain records of transactions and enables them to maintain the security and privacy of transactions. However, a quick rate of adoption of automation-as-a-service can also increase security risks for many organisations, as a recent report from machine identity protection solutions provider Venafi has revealed.
Protecting machine identities is critical for firms
When organisations adopt machines to do their work for them, they need to invest in machine identities to ensure that machines are able to identify themselves while connecting to other devices and systems. A machine identity involves a trusted certificate or a key that has been issued by a recognised certificate authority such as Entrust or Digicert, and these certificates are necessary because you do not want hackers to use machines that can assume the identity of a company-owned machine and thereby steal sensitive data.
In an interview given to TEISS in June, Jeff Hudson, CEO of Venafi, said that the use of certificates to preserve machine identity isn't perfect as certificates can be stolen and hackers are increasingly carrying out cyber attacks using stolen or forged machine identities.
He said that in order to prevent the misuse of machine identities, organisations must maintain visibility over what machines are active at any one moment and what they are doing, need to know whether a machine is trusted, who owns it, how it should be behaving, does it conform to policy, what to do if the wrong behaviour is recorded, and to develop rules that allow machines to distrust other machines.
Organisations struggling with machine identity protection
A recent survey of 350 IT professionals commissioned by Venafi has revealed that even though almost all of them are aware of the fact that effective protection of machine and human identities are equally important to the long-term security and viability of their companies, over 80 percent of them are presently struggling with the delivery of important machine identity protection capabilities.
According to Venafi, even though identity and access management programmes have so far been human-centric, the proliferation of machines in enterprise networks, new computing capabilities, and shifts in technology have necessitated an increased focus on protecting machine identities. Managing which machines can access business data and applications is critical as lack of such visibility can have serious security ramifications.
Despite the adoption of new machines by their organisations, 70 percent of IT professionals told the surveyers that they are tracking less than half of the most common types of machine identities found on their networks.
While 56 percent said they track cloud platform instance machine identities, 49 percent said they track mobile device machine identities, 49 percent said they track physical server machine identities, 29 percent said they track SSH keys, and only 25 percent said they track machine identities of microservices and containers.
"It is shocking that so many companies don’t understand the importance of protecting their machine identities. We spend billions of dollars protecting user names and passwords but almost nothing protecting the keys and certificates that machines use to identify and authenticate themselves," said Hudson.
"The number of machines on enterprise networks is skyrocketing and most organizations haven’t invested in the intelligence or automation necessary to protect these critical security assets. The bad guys know this, and they are targeting them because they are incredibly valuable assets across a wide range of cyber-attacks," he added.
"Newer technologies, such as cloud and containerization, have expanded the definition of machine to include a wide range of software that emulates physical machines. Furthermore, these technologies are spawning a tidal wave of new, rapidly changing machines on enterprise networks.
"To effectively manage and protect machine identities, organizations need: complete visibility of all machine identities across their networks; actionable intelligence about each machine identity; and the capabilities to effectively put that intelligence into action at machine speed and at scale," Venafi added.